Skip to main content

Full text of "TRAMPS AND LADIES"

See other formats


105 144 



03 < 

5m 
> jo 








FAROE IS, 



' \ 

NORTH ATLANTIC TRACKS 

(Summer) 

WEST BOUND EAST BOUND- 




30 DEGREES OF 20 LONGITUDE 10 



TRAMPS AND LADIES 



Other books by 
Sir James Bisset: 

LIFEBOAT EFFICIENCY (1912) 
SHIP AHOY! (1932) 
SAIL Ho! (1958) 



MY EARLY YEARS IN STEAMERS 



Tramps and Ladies 

\ -*- 



By SIR JAMES BISSET 

K.B., C.B.E., R.D., R.N.R., LL.D. (Cantab.) 
Commander of the Legion of Merit (XI. S. A.) 
Commodore (retd.) of the Cunard White Star Line 
Wartime Captain of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth 



Written in collaboration with P. R. STEPHENSEN 



CRITERION BOOKS & NEW YORK 



Copyright 1959 by Sir James Gordon Partridge Bisset 
and Percy Reginald Stephensen 



Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 59-12193 



Manufactured in the United States of America 



PREFACE 

"The liner, she's a lady." 

Kipling 

This is the second o an intended set of three volumes, de- 
scribing nautical life as I enjoyed it in fifty years of seagoing service, 
from 1898 to 1947. The story tells of the development of seaman- 
ship as I observed it during that period. The first half of the 
twentieth century was, in technical progress, at sea, as on land 
and in the air, the most dazzling in the history of mankind. Seamen 
of my generation have witnessed the extinction of sailing vessels 
on the regular transocean routes, and a tremendous improvement 
of mechanical propulsion, using at first coal and then oil fuel, 
until mammoth vessels of 80,000 tons were attained, which, in 
wartime emergency, could and did carry as many as 15,000 souls 
within one hull. 

My recollections, though restricted in their scope to personal 
experiences, include documentary descriptions of that transition- 
from sail to steam, and onwards to the competitive development of 
the gigantic transatlantic liners. My gradual promotion from the 
half deck of a Cape Horn barque to the bridge of a cargo steamer, 
and then to bigger steamers, was, especially in its earlier stages, 
similar to the experience of thousands of other officers in sail and 
steam, in the mercantile marine. The lore of steamers, as of sail, 
would require many books, by many writers; but only a few men 
with that knowledge to impart have been able to have it pre- 
served in print. My memoirs may supplement those of others, as a 
contribution to the records of the basic changes in seafaring 
technics from wind-driven to mechanically propelled navigation. 

Books on steam navigation may occupy a special shelf in 
libraries, alongside the shelf of sailing ship books. The mystique 
of sail presents a romantic rather than realistic view of life in 



windjammers; but the thousands of men who have served, and are 
still serving, in steamers, are aware that the routines and excep- 
tional incidents of life at sea in screw-driven vessels are worthy 
also of a definition in literature, which has not yet been finally 
achieved. 

A time may come when there will be a mystique of the coal- 
burning steamers, which in their heyday had a lore of their own 
that is now becoming almost as obsolete as the lore of sail. The 
old four-funneled Mauretania, for example, burned 1,000 tons of 
coal a day. To tend the 192 furnaces that heated her 25 boilers, 
she had a "Black Squad" of 324 firemen and trimmers. That hard 
labor down below was dispensed with when she was converted to 
an oilburner in 1921. The Titanic carried 250 firemen and trim- 
mers, most of whom went down with her. That era has gone. It had 
its zenith in the period preceding the First World War. 

Having kept diaries and other records throughout my sea- 
going career, I am now enabled, with the encouragement and 
assistance of my friend P. R. Stephensen, to tell my story system- 
atically, in chronological sequence. This includes descriptions of 
the day-by-day routines in coalburning steamers, and the ordinary 
happenings of a young officer's life, which are so much more typi- 
cal of seafaring than the occasional moments of excitement or 
tension that constitute dramatic action. The normal and the ex- 
ceptional together make the full picture of any man's experiences, 
at sea as elsewhere. 

It is not easy to describe the technics of a profession in non- 
technical language, but, after having been "quizzed" for many 
years on nautical details, by passengers in liners and troop trans- 
ports, I have had some practice at these elucidations. I have at- 
tempted, therefore, to explain nautical procedures in terms which 
may help to make them clear to land folk who only occasionally, 
or never, go to sea, or to young people who read a book to learn 
something from it. 

The first volume in this series, Sail Ho! My Early Years at 
Sea, described my adventures as an apprentice and Second Mate 
in Cape Horn sailing vessels from 1898 to 1904. 

The present volume, dealing with my service in steamers 

vi 



from 1905 to 1913, includes my recollections of knocking around 
in tramps for two years before I joined the Cunard Line in 1907, 
and then proceeds to the "ladies" (as Kipling termed the Ocean 
Grayhounds of that period). 

While I certainly have no desire to emphasize the "sensa- 
tional" or exceptional aspects of seafaring, it is necessary, for the 
completeness of this record, that I should include in this volume 
my observations on the disaster of the Titanic in 1912. My notes, 
made on and near the scene of the tragedy, have not hitherto been 
published. The lessons derived from that terrible mishap were 
immediately applied in safety precautions, which have made 
voyaging in passenger liners, in peacetime, the safest of all meth- 
ods of travel. In this sense those who perished in the wreck of the 
Titanic bequeathed a benefit to posterity. My analysis of that dis- 
aster is made from a seaman's point of view. 

In the third volume of these memoirs, now in preparation, 
covering the period from 1913 to 1947, 1 hope to be able to put on 
record some naval incidents of the First World War, and of my 
service in bigger liners, such as the Mauretania and the Beren- 
garia; to tell of the Usworth rescue in 1934; and then of my voyages 
in command of the Franconia, the Queen Mary, and the Queen 
Elizabeth as troop transports during and immediately after the 
Second World War. This concluding part of my story, with its 
unusual responsibilities and hazards, came as a sequel to the long 
years of sea experience and disciplines of which the foundations 
were laid in my early years in sail and steam. I was appointed 
Captain in the Cunard service in 1931, when I was forty-eight 
years of age, after having been at sea for thirty-three years. I was 
given command of the Queen Mary in 1942, when I was nearly 
fifty-nine years of age, after having been at sea for forty-four years. 
The third volume of these memoirs will be entitled Commodore's 
Farewell. 

I acknowledge with gratitude the kind co-operation of Mr. 
Felix Riesenberg, Jr., and Miss Ruth Hein, of New York, for sug- 
gestions made by them on their reading of the typescript; of Mr. 
John Allcot, of Sydney, for his cover designs; of Mr. Harold Wood- 
ward, of Sydney, Mr. Ron Parsons, of Sydney, and Mr. Alfred 

vii 



windjammers; but the thousands of men who have served, and are 
still serving, in steamers, are aware that the routines and excep- 
tional incidents of life at sea in screw-driven vessels are worthy 
also of a definition in literature, which has not yet been finally 
achieved. 

A time may come when there will be a mystique of the coal- 
burning steamers, which in their heyday had a lore of their own 
that is now becoming almost as obsolete as the lore of sail. The 
old four-funneled Mauretania, for example, burned 1,000 tons of 
coal a day. To tend the 192 furnaces that heated her 25 boilers, 
she had a "Black Squad" of 324 firemen and trimmers. That hard 
labor down below was dispensed with when she was converted to 
an oilburner in 1921. The Titanic carried 250 firemen and trim- 
mers, most of whom went down with her. That era has gone. It had 
its zenith in the period preceding the First World War. 

Having kept diaries and other records throughout my sea- 
going career, I am now enabled, with the encouragement and 
assistance of my friend P. R. Stephensen, to tell my story system- 
atically, in chronological sequence. This includes descriptions of 
the day-by-day routines in coalburning steamers, and the ordinary 
happenings of a young officer's life, which are so much more typi- 
cal of seafaring than the occasional moments of excitement or 
tension that constitute dramatic action. The normal and the ex- 
ceptional together make the full picture of any man's experiences, 
at sea as elsewhere. 

It is not easy to describe the technics of a profession in non- 
technical language, but, after having been "quizzed" for many 
years on nautical details, by passengers in liners and troop trans- 
ports, I have had some practice at these elucidations. I have at- 
tempted, therefore, to explain nautical procedures in terms which 
may help to make them clear to land folk who only occasionally, 
or never, go to sea, or to young people who read a book to learn 
something from it. 

The first volume in this series, Sail Ho! My Early Years at 
Sea, described my adventures as an apprentice and Second Mate 
in Cape Horn sailing vessels from 1898 to 1904. 

The present volume, dealing with my service in steamers 

vi 



from 1905 to 1913, includes my recollections of knocking around 
in tramps for two years before I joined the Cunard Line in 1907, 
and then proceeds to the "ladies" (as Kipling termed the Ocean 
Grayhounds of that period). 

While I certainly have no desire to emphasize the "sensa- 
tional" or exceptional aspects of seafaring, it is necessary, for the 
completeness of this record, that I should include in this volume 
my observations on the disaster of the Titanic in 1912. My notes, 
made on and near the scene of the tragedy, have not hitherto been 
published. The lessons derived from that terrible mishap were 
immediately applied in safety precautions, which have made 
voyaging in passenger liners, in peacetime, the safest of all meth- 
ods of travel. In this sense those who perished in the wreck of the 
Titanic bequeathed a benefit to posterity. My analysis of that dis- 
aster is made from a seaman's point of view. 

In the third volume of these memoirs, now in preparation, 
covering the period from 1913 to 1947, 1 hope to be able to put on 
record some naval incidents of the First World War, and of my 
service in bigger liners, such as the Mauretania and the Beren- 
garia; to tell of the Usworth rescue in 1934; and then of my voyages 
in command of the Franconia, the Queen Mary, and the Queen 
Elizabeth as troop transports during and immediately after the 
Second World War. This concluding part of my story, with its 
unusual responsibilities and hazards, came as a sequel to the long 
years of sea experience and disciplines of which the foundations 
were laid in my early years in sail and steam. I was appointed 
Captain in the Cunard service in 1931, when I was forty-eight 
years of age, after having been at sea for thirty-three years. I was 
given command of the Queen Mary in 1942, when I was nearly 
fifty-nine years of age, after having been at sea for forty-four years. 
The third volume of these memoirs will be entitled Commodore's 
Farewell. 

I acknowledge with gratitude the kind co-operation of Mr. 
Felix Riesenberg, Jr., and Miss Ruth Hein, of New York, for sug- 
gestions made by them on their reading of the typescript; of Mr. 
John Allcot, of Sydney, for his cover designs; of Mr. Harold Wood- 
ward, of Sydney, Mr. Ron Parsons, of Sydney, and Mr. Alfred 



vn 



Hine, of Ditton Park, Buckinghamshire, England, for assistance 
in checking details of nautical history; of the Directors of the 
Cunard White Star Line, the Curator of the Imperial War Mu- 
seum, London, Miss Millicent Vincent, and the Nautical Photo 
Agency, Beccles, Suffolk, for supplying photographs used as il- 
lustrations; and of my publishers in Sydney, London, and New 
York, for their care in tie details of book-launching. 

JAMES BISSET 

Manly, Sydney, 

Australia, 

1959. 



vm 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER ONE 1 

From Sail to Steam Farewell to the "Windbags" The 
Ambitions of a Young Salt Out of Work and Looking for 
a Job Trudging the Liverpool Docks The Ocean Gray- 
hounds Some Famous Cunarders of My Youthful Days 
Many Rebuffs The Early Bird Gets the Worm The S.S. 
"Rembrandt" My First Impressions of Her My Uni- 
form Suit A Third Mate's Hopes. 

CHAPTER TWO 12 

Joining My First Steamer Contrasts in Luxury Load- 
ing Cargo Noah's Ark in the Shelter Deck The Ship's 
Complement The Excitement of Sailing Day Our Pas- 
sengers "Extra Cargo!" Clearing Out "Lampy" and 
the Lights The Pilot Comes Aboard Casting Off My 
First Watch on the Bridge* Experience Teaches. 

CHAPTER THREE 25 

Sailorizing Made Easy Traffic in the Irish Sea Scilly 
Light Abeam The Chops of the Channel Open Water 
/ Take Over a Watch An Ambition Achieved We Ar- 
rive at Buenos Aires A Glimpse of the Gay Life Monte- 
video The Famous Haven of Rio de Janeiro Colorful 
Bahia The Ease of Navigation in Steam Canary Wine 

ix 



Las PalmasHome and Time to Leave Her "On the 
Beach" Again. 

CHAPTER FOUR 40 

A Voyage to the West Indies The S.S. "Texan 99 A Silent 
Captain Why a Ship is a "She" The Blue Caribbean 
Jamaica Rum The Port of Colon in 1905 Beginning of 
the Panama Canal Gigantic American Achievement 
The Gulf of Mexico The Gulf Stream The Mississippi 
Delta Quarantine at New Orleans Fever Raging I 
Take a Chance Key West Home Safe "On the Beach" 
Again. 

CHAPTER FIVE 53 

In the Doldrums of Unemployment I Decide to Go Back 
to Sail The Barque "Santa" A Narrow Escape 7 Join 
the S.S. "Jura" My Third Voyage in Steam The Cap- 
tain's Daughter Cape Flyaway Buenos Aires Magel- 
lan Strait Antofagasta Iquique Pisagua Aground in 
a Fog Cardiff and Home My Friend, Jim Watt A Step 
up the Ladder. 

CHAPTER SIX 74 

First Mate of the S.S. "Shira"A Maiden Voyage Ham, 
Turkey, and Champagne Bugs in the Fo'c'sle Bound 
for the Mysterious East Gibraltar and the Mediterra- 
neanPort Said The Suez Canal The Red Sea We 
Arrive at Bombay Coolies and Chloride of Lime A 
Fakir's Trick Cargo at Karachi Home Again. 

CHAPTER SEVEN 89 

Paid off from the ShiraI Turn down a Chance of New 
Hats "On the Beach" Again First Mate of the "Nether 
Holme" A Voyage from MaryportMeet Percy Hefford 
The Captain's Rheumatics Cleaning up a Tramp 
Naval Coal at Barry Dock Crew Desert A Cold Job- 
Pride and Luck The Western Ocean. 

x 



CHAPTER EIGHT 103 

Excitement in a Collier The S.S. "Nether Holme' 9 Bound 
for Bermuda The Captain's Retiring Habits Dirty 
Weather and Flooded Decks Securing a Hatch An 
A.B.'s Broken Thigh* Paddy the Fireman Runs Amok 
Blood in the Stokehold The Captain's Pistol Securing 
the Prisoner Why Men Go to Sea. 

CHAPTER NINE 113 

The Heyday of Coal Burning Steamers The Humble but 
Necessary Colliers Able Seaman Stanley My First Voy- 
age in the North Atlantic We Sight the Beautiful Sisters 
A Gale off Sable Island Drifting to a Lee Shore The 
Gut of GansoIcy Ordeal at Cape Tormentine The 
Cape Race Track Mid-Atlantic Hurricane My Worst 
Voyage. 

CHAPTER TEN 126 

The Payoff from the "Nether Holme' 9 I Need Two Days 
More Seatime Percy Hefford's Generous Gesture A 
Glasgow Music Hall Hullabaloo in the Fo'c'sle A Po- 
liceman's Caution Launch of the "Lusitania" and "Mau- 
retania" Able Seaman Stanley Signs off Working My 
Passage to Swansea My Time in, to the Day The Master 
Mariner's Examination A Tribute to Tramps. 

CHAPTER ELEVEN 135 

Master in Sail The Square Rigged Certificate My 
Mother's Surprising Suggestion Studying for Extra Mas- 
ter Liverpool Music Halls / Pass the Extra Exam A 
Great Stroke of Luck I Join the Cunard Line My First 
Cunarder, the "Caronia"One of the "Pretty Sisters" 
The Tussle for Atlantic Supremacy Cunard' s Triumphs 
Mother's Wisdom The Turning Point of My Career. 

CHAPTER TWELVE 144 

My First Voyage in a Cunarder Getting the "Caronia" 
Ready for Sea The Mails The Captain and Officers 

xi 



3J36 Souls Afloat 'Bon Voyage" at the Mersey Bar The 
Watches at Sea "Full ahead Both" at Eighteen Knots 
Our Pride and Glory Navigating from Shore to Shore 
A Call at Queenstown The Last View of Erin Fastnet 
Abeam. 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN 156 

Sobriety at Sea The Thirst for Nautical Knowledge 
Crossing the Devil's Hole The Atlantic Deeps A Strong 
Stomach Our Track in the Iceberg Season Naviga- 
tional Equipment in 1907 t The Wireless Operator Ra- 
dio at Sea in the Early Days The Purser and His Duties 
Captain's Inspection The "Ship's People" Detailed Or- 
ganization of a Grand Lady A Floating Beehive. 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN 166 

Divine Service We Sight an IcebergThe Behavior of 
Bergs Safety at Sea Lifeboats Passengers' Questions 
A Shipboard Concert Approaching the American Shore 
The Destination of Columbus Nantucket Shoals Light 
Vessel "Down Easters" Sandy Hook Light Vessel We 
Enter New York Bay That Great Port The Narrows 
The Statue of Liberty We Berth at Pier 54. 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN 179 

New York in the Horse Days Some Things Have 
Changed The Cunard Fleet in 1907 Shipping Competi- 
tion in the North Atlantic The White Star Line 
Pierpont Morgan's "Combine" The American Line- 
Government Subsidies to Cunard The Twenty Years 
Agreement The Hamburg-Amerika Line Nor ddeuts- 
cher Lloyd The French Line Rivalry and Prestige. 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN 188 

Transferred to the "Ultonia"The McKinley Tariffs and 
American Overseas Trade A Veteran Captain Austri- 
an*, Hungarians, and Italians Confiscating Colts Meals 



xii 



in an Emigrant Ship Gibraltar "See Naples and Die!" 
Home at Sea Stromboli's Fiery Breath Scylla and 
Charybdis Messina The Adriatic Emigrants and Tra- 
choma A Cure for Seasickness Ellis Island. 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN 202 

In Hospital for Refit Kindness of Commodore Watt I 
Join the R.M.S. "Umbria">"The Atlantic Submarines 9 ' 
How and When Sailors Sleep Captain James Charles 
Chief Officer Luke Ward" 'Umbria' the Unready"^- 
Her Open Bridge A Burial at Sea A Moving Experi- 
ence Captain Will Turner Chief Officer Jock Anderson 
The Steep Ladder of Promotion. 

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN 215 

Liverpool to Boston Two Winter Voyages in the "Iver- 
nia" The "Steady Sisters" Captain Benison's Worries 
Navigating in Fog A North Atlantic Storm Mountain- 
ous Seas Lifeboats Stove in We Arrive Two Days Late 
Studied Understatement Boston Hospitality The 
Nantucket sea-tradition 

CHAPTER NINETEEN 240 

The S.S. "Brescia 99 Captain Arthur Rostron The Power 
of Prayer Many Ports of Call The Coal Wharf at Ven- 
ice Greek and Turkish Ports The Dardanelles The 
Black Sea Smyrna Quails at Alexandria Mediterra- 
nean Kaleidoscope The Wreck of the S.S. "Republic" 
Magic of Wireless The Wreck of the S.S. "Slavonia" 
My First Visit to London A Commission in the R.N.R. 
I Meet May. 

CHAPTER TWENTY 254 

Earning Promotion the Hard Way Captain Melsom, the 
"Silver King" Alik of Alexandria The Adventures of a 
Stowaway A Ride in the Black Maria The White Star 
Superliners "Olympic" and *' Titanic" New Era of Giant 

xiii 



Ships The "Mauretania" and the Blue Riband My 
Mediterranean Servitude "Charlie" Morrison My Pro- 
motion to Second Officer Called up for Training in the 
Royal Naval Reserve The Lure of London. 

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE 269 

The Royal Naval Reserve*~HM.S. "Hogue" Captain 
Keighley Peach, R.N. Manners and Customs of the Navy 
My Friend Percy Hefford An III Omen Atlantic Lin- 
ers of 1912 Launch of the "Titanic" Building of the 
"Aquitania" Bishop Chavasse Confirms Me I Join the 
5.5. "Carpathia" as Second Officer The Black Hand I 
See the "Olympic" in New York The Maiden Voyage of 
the "Titanic" The "Unsinkable" Ship. 

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO 284 

The "Titanic" a "Hoodoo Ship" Mishap at Undocking 
Her Inadequate Lifeboat Accommodation Premoni- 
tions of Disaster Her Track Across the Atlantic Driv- 
ing on to Arrive on Schedule The "Carpathia's" East- 
bound Track Ice Warnings Our Wireless Operator 
Visibility on the Fateful Night The Aurora Borealis 
The "Titanifs" Distress Signals First S O S in History 
"Carpathia" Rushes to the RescueCaptain Rostron's 
Preparations. 

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE 297 

Hastening to the Rescue Wireless Signals Cease Navi- 
gating Among the Bergs We Sight Flares Gray Dawn 
and Choppy Seas A Lifeboat in Sight Picking up the 
Survivors "Women and Children FirstsThe Living 
and the Dead A Vortex of Calamity Grief Beyond 
Words The Tragic Scene at Sunrise. 

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR 308 

The "Califarnian" Arrives Belatedly A Terrible Awak- 
eningDivine Service Held Ghosts of the Atlantic 

xiv 



Tracks "Carpathia" Heads for New York Getting Free 
of the Icefield Survivors' Narratives Complicated 
Causes of the Disaster How the Collision Occurred A 
Split Second Calamity The Web of Fate. 

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE 320 

Return of the "Carpathia" The Survivors' Stories The 
" Titanic' s" Band Anxiety in New York We Arrive at 
Sandy Hook A Bedlam of Questions Pratique "Gee, 
What a Story!" The Yellow Press New York in Mourn- 
ing Rewards and Medals End of This Volume. 



xv 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



facing page 

Mate in a tramp (James Bisset, 1906) 78 

Liverpool Landing Stage with S.S. Umbria alongside 79 

S.S. Etruria, built 1885 79 

A typical tramp steamer 1 10 

Western Ocean tramp in heavy weather 110 

Cunard liner S.S. Caronia, built 1904 111 

Cunard liner S.S. Carpathia, built 1903 111 

Atlantic iceberg, with Ice Patrol aircraft 174 

Atlantic iceberg, with Ice Patrol vessel alongside 1 74 

5.S. Lusitania passing the Old Head of Kinsdale 175 

S.S. Mauretania in the Tyne River, 1906 175 

May, feeding a horse, 1911 206 

HM.S. Victory, Nelson's flagship 207 

White Star liner S.S. Olympic, launched 1910 270 
White Star liner 5.S. Titanic, leaving Belfast on her trials, 

April Fools' Day, 1912 270 

Second Officer in S.S. Carpathia, 1912 271 

Officers in S.S. Carpathia, 1912 271 
Gold medal presented by Titanic survivors to officers of S.S. 

Carpathia, 1912 302 

Inscription on obverse of Titanic medal 302 
Titanic memorial service on U.S. International Ice Patrol 

vessel 303 



xvii 



Here's to the luck of the Second Mate, 

Bright as a morning breeze 
On the Ocean Blue, -with his yarns (all true) 

Of sailing the Seven Seas; 
And. here's to his dream of his "little lass," 

And the gift of that golden day 
When, -waiting past, he shall stand at last 

At home with his English May. 



Lines -written by an 
American lady passenger 
in ft. M.S. Carpathia, 
at sea, July, 1912. 



CHAPTER ONE 




From Sail to Steam Farewell to the "Wind- 
bags" The Ambitions of a Young Salt Out of 
Work and Looking for a Job Trudging the 
Liverpool Docks The Ocean Grayhounds 
Some Famous Cunarders of My Youthful Days 
Many Rebuffs The Early Bird Gets the 
Worm The S.S. "Rembrandt" My First Im- 
pressions of Her My Uniform Suit A Third 
Mate's Hopes. 



IN February, 1905, at the age of twenty-one years and seven 
months, I passed the Board of Trade examination for First Mate 
at Liverpool, England, and decided to look for a job in a steamer. 
As old shellbacks used to put it, I had made up my mind to "knock 
off going to sea and go into steamboats." 

I had served my time as an apprentice and Second Mate in sail, 
on four voyages around the world, via Cape Horn, in the preceding 
six years. But my knowledge of handling sail would obviously be 
of no use to me in a steamer. Yet I believed, like all other men 
trained in sail, that the practical knowledge of seamanship, la- 
boriously acquired under canvas, would have at least some appli- 
cation in the working of a steam-driven vessel. 

This was a belief to buoy my confidence, which needed some 



support. The truth of the matter was that I had never been on 
the bridge of a steamer, and had no practical knowledge of the 
work and routine that would be required of me. Though I held a 
First Mate's certificate, I had no expectation of obtaining a posi- 
tion as First Mate in a steamer until I had gained experience as 
a junior officer, without too much responsibility while I was "learn- 
ing the ropes" not that there were many ropes in a steamer! 

It was my intention and ambition to study for the examination 
for Master Mariner, which would enable me, if I were lucky 
enough, eventually to attain command of a vessel; but that sum- 
mit of ambition could be hoped for only after many years of serv- 
ice as an officer in subordinate capacities. In the meantime, it was 
required that after passing my First Mate's examination, I should 
serve not less than eighteen months as First or Second Mate in 
seagoing vessels before I would be allowed to sit for the examina- 
tion for a Master's Certificate, My immediate aim, then, was to 
"get my time in," if possible, by signing on as a Second Mate. 

My youthfulness and inexperience in steam were a handicap; 
but it happened also that, at that time, the supply of ship's officers 
looking for work in steamers at Liverpool exceeded the demand 
for their services. Day after day I tramped the dockside district, 
from end to end, seeking a job, without success. Liverpool was 
my home town, and the place of my birth. I was living at home 
with my parents, after being paid off from the sailing ship County 
of Cardigan three months previously, and my savings were nearly 
exhausted. My funds were so low, and my prospects of getting a 
job in steam seemingly so remote, that I walked miles rather than 
incur the expense of a few coppers to travel on the overhead 
railway. 

I was tempted to apply for jobs that were offering in sailing 
vessels, but I resisted the impulse. It was a wrench to leave sail 
and go into steam. Life in sailing vessels was hard, as I knew only 
too well, but it held many joys to appeal to the temperament of 
the ocean roamer "wild, wide and free/' My common sense told 
me that windjammers were doomed to extinction by the com- 
petition of steam; yet, in 1905, there were still many hundreds of 
sailing vessels under the British flag, and hundreds more under the 



American, French, German, Scandinavian, and other national 
flags. They were owned and manned by diehards, of an aging gen- 
eration, and were kept going, with increasing financial difficulties, 
by the force of habit inherited from centuries of tradition. 

Ambitious young officers of my generation, looking to their 
own future, could see clearly enough that steamers offered better 
wages and conditions, shorter voyages, and above all better 
chances of eventual promotion than the poor old, beloved and 
beautiful, but impoverished "windbags" could ever offer. Having 
for this practical reason made up my mind to go into steam, I 
persisted in that intention despite the setbacks I received. 

As I trudged the dockside, I looked wistfully at the Atlantic mail 
steamers berthed there. Then, and in the three months that I 
had been ashore, while studying for my First Mate's certificate, I 
had viewed them with envy as something far beyond my modest 
ambitions at that time. I was only a Cape Horn sailor, trained in a 
little barque of 1,098 tons and a little full-rigged ship of 1,323 tons 
that carried dirty or smelly cargoes, such as coal and guano, safely 
through the world's fiercest storms and wildest waters. We shell- 
backs had a pride of our own, but we knew that we were ignorant 
of the methods of working these leviathan liners owned by the 
Cunard, White Star, Inman and other Western Ocean steamship 
companies. 

In their stylishness, size, speed, power, and glory, the Western 
Ocean liners were in a class far superior to the modest scope of my 
immediate ambition. Some of them were twenty times bigger in 
tonnage than the handy little vessels in which I had learned to be 
a seaman. I did not have the nerve to apply for a job in such 
grand and regal looking vessels. I knew my limitations. I would 
have to learn how to handle steamers, as I had learned seaman- 
ship in sail, the hard way, from the bottom rung of the ladder; 
but, at twenty-one years of age, with a First Mate's certificate to 
show, I would be off to a flying start if I could get a start! and 
time was on my side. 

Among the Cunard liners voyaging to and from Liverpool in 
those days were the Umbria (8,128 tons) and Etruria (8,120 tons). 



They were sister ships, launched at Glasgow in 1884 and 1885, 
and had thus been in service, on the transatlantic run, for twenty 
years. They were the last Cunarders with auxiliary sails. In the 
forty-four years after Samuel Cunard, with Robert Napier, George 
Burns, and David Mclver, had founded the Cunard Line in 1840, 
until the launching of the Umbria and th~Etruria, there had 
been a total of eighty vessels in the Cunard service, all of them 
steamers with auxiliary sails. Of these, fifteen were wooden-built 
paddle steamers, two were iron-hulled paddle steamers, fifty-nine 
were iron-hulled screw steamers, and four (including the Umbria 
and the Etruria) were steel-hulled screw steamers; but every vessel 
had masts and yards with sails, for extra propulsion, and as a pre- 
caution in case of engine breakdown. 

Liverpool was the terminal port in Britain for the Cunard serv- 
ices to Halifax, New York, and Boston. We Merseysiders were 
reared with a special pride in the Cunarders. I was only a babe in 
arms when the Umbria and the Etruria were launched, but many 
a time in my boyhood I had wistfully peered through the barriers 
at the busy scene when they sailed from Liverpool landing stage 
on Saturday afternoons with the mails and passengers, bound 
across the Western Ocean for that Land of Opportunity, Enchant- 
ment, and Adventure the Land of Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Joe 
the New World Americal 

The Blue Peter whipping at the masthead, and the Cunard 
House Flag a golden lion rampant on a red ground, with a 
golden ball (the Terrestrial Globe) in his forepaws fluttering 
in the breeze at the main truck, high above the scene of bustle and 
excitement on board the ship and on the quay, as the time of de- 
parture neared, were the pennons of romance and grand adven- 
ture, which, to my schoolboy imagination, had seemed entirely 
beyond my reach. Now, as a weatherbeaten and unemployed young 
salt, I thought, one day, as I moodily watched the Umbria cast off 
her moorings and move into the stream, that that Golden Lion 
was still far too grand for me. Then I continued trudging the 
docks, in quest of a job that would be more in my style. 

The Umbria and the Etruria, and their two immediate prede- 
cessors, the Servia (7,392 tons, launched 1881) and the Aurania 



(7,269 tons, launched 1883), were the forerunners of the Ocean 
Grayhound design of transatlantic liners long and sleek, or 
"streamlined." Their proportions of length to beam were ap- 
proximately nine to one. They were the first steel-built screw 
steamers of the Cunard Line. 

The Umbria and the Etruria each had a length over-all of 519 
feet and a beam of 57 feet. Their length "between the perpen- 
diculars" (excluding the forerake and the stern overhang) was 
501 feet. They had two stumpy funnels (or smokestacks) amid- 
ships, and three masts, which originally carried square sails, but 
were later schooner-rigged. In their earlier years of service they 
were, with the exception of the freak Great Eastern (12,000 tons, 
length 695 feet over-all, beam 83 feet, launched 1858) the biggest 
merchant ships in the world. They were also the fastest, with a 
speed on their trials of 19i/ knots. 

In the year she was launched, 1885, the Etruria took the Blue 
Riband of the Atlantic for the highest average speed of the year 
on a measured crossing with a passage of 6 days 5 hours 31 min- 
utes, from Queenstown to Sandy Hook, at an average speed of 
18.93 knots. In 1887 she made the eastbound passage at 19.90 knots. 
The two sisters held the Blue Riband for five years, the Umbria 9 s 
best passage being on a westbound crossing at 18.89 knots. 

These two remained for many years the biggest single-screw 
steamers in the world; but mechanical confidence went too far 
when, after several years of service, the auxiliary sails were dis- 
carded. Soon after this decision was put into effect, the Etruria 
lost her propeller in mid-Atlantic. Having no wireless, she drifted 
helplessly. Intense anxiety prevailed among the relatives and 
friends of the passengers and crew, and among shipping people 
generally, on both sides of the Atlantic, when the world's most 
famous passenger liner was posted overdue and missing. But, after 
ten or twelve days, she was sighted and joyfully towed for a thou- 
sand miles to Liverpool by a small steamer, the S.S. William Cliff. 

Bigger and faster steel vessels, with twin screws and no auxiliary 
sails, had been built for the Cunard Line in the 1890's. The sister 
ships Campania and Lucania (12,950 tons, length over-all 622 feet, 
beam 65 feet, launched 1893), each held the Blue Riband, with 



speeds of 21*33 and 22 knots respectively. They were the first twin- 
screw Cunarders, 

Other "big" Cunarders, which were in service in 1905, regularly 
putting in to Liverpool, were the Ultonia (10,402 tons, launched 
1898); the sister ships Ivernia (14,057 tons) and Saxonia (14,280 
tons), both launched in 1900; the Carpathia (13,603 tons, launched 
1903); and the sister ships Caronia (19,593 tons) and Carmania 
(19,524 tons), both launched in 1904, the latter being the first and 
only triple-screw Cunarder, Her wing screws were driven by re- 
ciprocating engines and the center screw by turbines ahead only. 
The size, speed, and luxurious appointments of these Western 
Ocean Grayhounds made them appear as visions of overwhelming 
magnificence and splendor to the mind of a very young sailing ship 
officer trudging the docks out of work. I wondered how long it 
would take me to gain enough experience in steamers to be able 
to apply with some confidence to the Cunard Marine Superin- 
tendent for a job in one of those floating palaces* That prospect 
receded as I began each day with hope and ended it in despair 
cold, weary, and "broke" after walking miles and meeting with 
nothing but rebuffs in that wet February of 1905, dismally aware 
now that hundreds of other officers, older and more experienced 
than I, had an idea similar to mine: namely, to "get into steam," 
by hook or by crook- 
Then I got a lucky break, or a reward for sheer desperate per- 
sistence. On March 1, 1905, 1 tumbled out of bed as usual at 5 A.M., 
in the cold and dark, and, after a hurried breakfast, walked three 
miles from our home to the docks, in the belief which I was 
beginning to doubt that the early bird gets the worm. 

I went first to the Shipping Federation Office (an employment 
agency), and walked in as its doors were being opened. A clerk, 
who was probably sick of the sight of me, sang out from the back of 
the office as I stood at the inquiry counter, "Lamport and Holt 
want a Third Mate for the S.S. Rembrandt. Get down to the Hus- 
kisson Dock as quickly as you can, before someone else grabs itl" 
As he pronounced the name Rembrandt with a stress on the 
first syllable, I did not quite catch the name, and was a little 



puzzled by what I fancied I heard. But I wasted no time, and, has- 
tening to the nearest station o the overhead railway, I spent a 
precious twopence for a ride to the Huskisson Dock. 

I found the Marine Superintendent in his office at the end of 
the dock. He was a big, bluff, bearded man. As soon as he saw 
me, he knew what I was after. "Looking for a job?" he growled. 

"Yes/ 1 I replied. "I hear you want a Third Mate for the S.S. 
Remnant!" 

"Remnant!" he roared. "REMNANT? What the hell do you 
think Lamport and Holt own a fleet of ragbags? Her name is 
Rembrandt, the name of a famous artist, and don't forget it! She's 
a twin-screw steamer, on the run to Buenos Aires with cargo and 
passengers. A very fine vessel, too, one of the best in the Western 
Ocean. Remnant indeed! Ho! Ho! So you want to be Third Mate 
in a Remnant, do ye? Ever been in steam before?" 

I admitted my inexperience, and said I was sorry I had not 
caught the ship's name properly. Luckily for me, the M.S. had a 
sense of humor. "You'll learn," he said. "What are your qualifi- 
cations?" 

He wrote down particulars of my name, age, and sea experience, 
and looked at my certificates and testimonials. "All right, Mister,'* 
he said. "You can have the job. Six pounds a month and provide 
your own uniform. See my clerk about that, and report on board 
tomorrow morning at seven o'clock for duty. The Rembrandt 
now, don't forget, REMBRANDT! will be sailing for the Plate 
in six days. Best o' luck, m'ladl" 

The clerk was a weedy, middle-aged, miserable looking man, 
with a drooping moustache and a frugal outlook on life. "Good 
gracious!" he grumbled. " 'Aven't you got a Uniform Suit? 'Ow 
can you go to sea without a Uniform Suit?" 

"I've been in sail all my time," I told him. "Came home round 
the Horn with a cargo of guano, and we didn't need a Uniform 
Suit for that kind of work." 

"Good 'eavens, I s'pose you didn't! Well, this is what I advise 
you to do. Go to Lewis', and get a blue serge double breasted suit 
for thirty bob. Tell them you want a set of brass buttons and dips, 
and also a set of black buttons and clips. The buttons make all the 



difference to a Uniform Suit, see? You wear the brass buttons when 
you're on board, and the black buttons when you go ashore, see? 
So you'll 'ave two suits for the price of one, see? And 'ave you a 
Uniform Cap?" 

"Well, yes/' I said. "A badge cap I wore when I was Second 
Mate in the ship County of Cardigan. It has the badge of William 
Thomas and Company, Limited." 

" 'Eavens above, that won't dol Better get a new Uniform Cap 
with Lamport and Holt's badge on it L. and H. see? Then 
you'll be all set I" 

I thanked him for his good advice, then hurried outside, elated, 
and strode along the dock to the berth where the S.S. Rembrandt 
lay. She was partly obscured by the wharf sheds when I first sighted 
her, but I could plainly see her name and port of registry painted 
under her high stern with its white taffrail, and the mooring lines 
with their ratshields in position. 

For some minutes I stood in silent and deep contemplation, 
trying to take in her details, so unfamiliar to me. A wisp of smoke 
and a plume of steam rose from her funnel amidships, and there 
was a rattle of winches as slings of cargo were hoisted inboard, 
with the voices of the stevedores or one of the mates occasionally 
singing out an order. 

Athwartships, forward of the funnel, was the Bridge, a high 
island deckhouse, the holy of holies with its mysteries which were 
now so soon to be revealed to me. My spirits sank as I realized 
how differently everything was arranged in comparison with the 
layout of a sailing ship. She was a flush-deck steamer, with two 
steel masts, but no yards were crossed on them. They had stays, 
but very little rigging. The foremast had a crow's nest for the 
lookout men, and the masts carried flag halyards for signals, but 
were otherwise bare of all the intricate top-hamper of sail. 

The twelve cargo derricks, angled on the masts, spanned, when 
they were hoisted, four hatches opening down to capacious 'tween- 
decks and lower holds. The derricks, at my first glance, seemed out 
of place and unbalanced. An outstanding impression was of the 
height of her sides and bulwarks amidships, as compared with 
sailing vessels, in which the main deck was usually below the level 

8 



of the wharf planking when they lay at a berth. But in this, as in 
other steamers, the bulwarks amidships stood eight or ten feet 
above the wharf level. It seemed to me that it would be almost im- 
possible for her to ship water abeam, or to roll the lee rail under. 
No more flooded decks for me! 

Not wishing to announce my presence prematurely, I surveyed 
my ship yes, My Ship now! from a cautious distance, with 
mingled feelings and a confusion of first impressions which on 
the whole were distinctly exhilarating. The S.S. Rembrandt was 
certainly no ''remnant," but a well-found vessel of her class. She 
was not a leviathan nor an Ocean Grayhound; nor was she a rusty 
old tramp. Her paintwork was smart enough to be a credit to the 
owners of a passenger-carrying cargo vessel of moderate size on 
the South American run. I took in enough of her details at my 
first meditative, bemused survey of her, to turn away, after a little 
while, elated at the prospect of getting such a good start in my 
career in steam. 

Then I hurried home, on the overhead railway, to get some 
money, and to tell my mother that I was a steamship officer at 
last! She well knew what it meant to me to achieve such an am- 
bition, after years of hard work and study, and weeks of disap- 
pointment which had seemed like years. This was the turning 
point in my nautical career, and mother knew it, as mothers al- 
ways know. 

"Your father will be proud of you," she smiled. "And so will 
your brothers and sisters and so will I, when we see you in your 
uniform, brass buttons and all!" 

Hastening to the outfitter's shop, I found myself, a few minutes 
after I had entered, standing in front of a long mirror, admiring 
myself in my first real Uniform Suit and my new cap. An officer 
in a Western Ocean passenger steamer! It seemed too good to be 
true. No more for me the dungarees of an officer in sail, supervis- 
ing the loading or discharge of coal or guano in torrid remote ports, 
or manning braces and tending halyards, up to the armpits in 
swirling water on decks flooded with icy seas, rounding the Horn 
I hoped! 

9 



No more hounding men aloft, at risk of life and limb, to take 
in or make sail in a howling hurricane; no more tedious pully- 
hauly, sweltering in the doldrums; no more starvation on the bare 
whack of putrid pork and hard biscuits! But, on the other hand, it 
suddenly occurred to me, there would be no more of the peace and 
quiet of a sailing ship, snoring along in the Trades with all sail 
set and everything drawing; no more of the exhilaration of running 
the easting down; no more thrills of gazing aloft at graceful curv- 
ing sails and the intricate maze of the rigging outlined against a 
blue or starry sky. . . . 

For the rest of my nautical life, maybe, I would be going to sea 
in oblong steel boxes with smoking funnels, thumping engines, 
vibrating propellers, rattling derricks, and clattering winches. I 
would be dolled up like a gilded popinjay in my brassbound uni- 
form, to impress the passengers; and perhaps there would be very 
little real sailorizing to be done- Ah, well, the decision was takenl 

The smart young officer looking at me out of the long mirror 
appeared well satisfied with his Uniform Suit. 

"Fits you perfectly, sir/* remarked the salesman, reassuringly. 

'Til take it," I said. 

"Will you be wearing it now, or will you take it wrapped?" 

"I'll wear it now, and you can wrap my other suit," I told him. 

"Will you wear it with the brass buttons or the black buttons, 
sir?" 

"The brass," I said. 

Going home, resplendent, I fancied that the Liverpool lasses 
were eyeing me with more than the usual amount of appreciation 
conferred on eligible prey. My parents, brothers, and sisters were 
outspoken in their admiration of my uniform; but my father, a 
dour Scot, said, "Dinna forget to polish the buttons, or they'll go 
green!" 

That evening, with the efficient and fussy help of my dear 
mother and sisters, I packed my sea chest and sea bag for the new 
adventure. My sea chest had a vivid picture of the barque County 
of Pembroke on the inside of the lid painted by myself in my 
apprenticeship days, in lavish and garish colors. I arranged with 

10 



a cabman who lived in our street to call for me at six o'clock in 
the morning, to drive me to the docks. 

He was there on time, with his old horse-drawn four-wheeled 
growler. We rattled over the cobbles, and arrived at the Huskisson 
Dock at a quarter to seven. 

My brass buttons shining and my badge cap smartly askew, I 
mounted the gangway of the S.S. Rembrandt, and, with my best 
imitation of a lordly air, handed threepence to a dockside down- 
and-out who carried my dunnage up the gangway and dumped it 
on the deck. 

The Third Mate had arrived. 



11 



CHAPTER TWO 



Joining My First Steamer Contrasts in Luxury 
Loading Cargo Noah's Ark in the Shelter 
Deck The Ship's Complement The Excite- 
ment of Sailing Day Our Passengers "Extra 
Cargo/" Clearing Out "Lampy" and the 
Lights The Pilot Comes Aboard Casting Off 
My First Watch on the Bridge Experience 
Teaches. 



CAPTAIN Julian Royce of the S.S. Rembrandt was a fine seaman 
of the old style, who had been trained in sail. He was not wearing 
his uniform. It was his custom in his home port to spend most 
of his time ashore, coming on board for a short time each day 
to look around and attend to the ship's business. He knew from 
the Marine Superintendent the details of my experience in sail. 
"You'll find things very different in steam/' he warned me, "but, 
if you keep your wits, you'll soon learn your way about." 

He introduced me to the Mate, John Carey, and the Second 
Mate, James Birse, They were both wearing their rather shabby 
brassbound uniforms and badge caps, and I was glad that I had 
mine on, to make a suitable show. They greeted me briefly but 
cordially. 

The Mate, a red-headed Irishman with a brogue, said brusquely, 

12 



"We're taking in cargo today. Get your things into your cabin, 
and go down below in Number Two Hold as quickly as you can, 
to keep an eye on the stevedores, and see they don't smoke, or pil- 
fer cargo. Mr. Birse will show you your cabin." He hurried away, 
like a man who has a thousand important matters to attend to. His 
burly figure was the personification of efficiency. He had served 
his time in sail, and ten years as an officer in steam. He held a 
Master's certificate, and stood every chance of soon being given 
a command in Lamport and Holt's service. 

The Second Mate also had served his time in sail. He was five 
years older than I, and had been three years in steam. He showed 
me my cabin, which was next to his, in the midship house (under 
the bridge), with a door opening on to the deck. Each of the of- 
ficers had a cabin to himself. Mine was small but clean and com- 
fortable, with white-painted iron bulkheads and deckhead, 
planked deck, a glassed port, a neat bunk with mattress and 
bedding, including sheets, supplied. There were lockers, a wash- 
stand and shaving mirror, a water tap at the washbowl, and 
marvelous! electric light! 

"Better than living under the poop in a windbag, eh?" grinned 
Birse. "Are you sorry you're going into steam?" 

"Not yet," I said, and added, "This looks grand to ine." 

"You'll find your way around. You'd better hurry down below. 
They've started loading already in all the four holds. Number Two 
is forward of the bridge. Anything you want to know?" 

"Yes," I said. "Do I change into dungarees to go down below 
and work in the cargo?" 

Birse laughed scornfully. "Dungarees? We don't wear dun- 
garees in a passenger steamer! You'll never need 'em again unless 
you go back into sail, or into a tramp steamer!" 

"How many passengers do we carry?" I asked. 

"Ten or a dozen. They're not aboard yet, but we have to wear 
our Number One brassbound suits to impress them when they 
do come on, and we wear uniforms also when loading, to let the 
stevedores know who's who. If you're ready, come with me now, 
and I'll show you what's what. I'm in charge on deck forward, 

13 



while loading is going on, and the Mate's supervising the after- 
hatches." 

As we stepped out on deck, I glanced around, and had a feeling 
of dismay. Everything was unfamiliar to me. Abaft the bridge was 
the engineroom, or stokehold, protected by its "fiddley" (iron 
grating), through which I could glimpse a sudden glow of flame, as 
a stoker shoveled coal into the donkey boiler furnace, to keep a 
head of steam on for working the winches and to drive the dynamo 
for the electric light. 

On the afterdeck were two gaping holds, into which cargo was 
being slung, from derricks rigged on the mainmast, with a rattle 
and clatter of steam winches. We walked forward, and a similar 
scene of mechanized pandemonium prevailed there. The deck on 
which we trod was of steel. I glanced aloft at the bare foremast, 
with its crow's nest, and my instincts were shocked by the lack 
of graceful rigging and yards. So th is is steam, I thought, dejectedly, 

"That's Number Two hold," said Birse, pointing to it. "Keep an 
eye on the slings when you're going down." 

He hurried away, to grapple with his other duties. As action 
is the best cure for melancholy, and youth, as a rule, doesn't 
spend much time on regrets, I quickly lost my feeling of depression. 
Waiting until the next sling of cargo was clear, I went down the 
vertical iron ladder into the hold, and stood to one side, watching 
the four gangs of stevedores one in each corner of the hold- 
stowing the bales, boxes, crates, and packages of a cargo of general 
merchandise. 

In the half darkness, it was difficult to watch one gang let alone 
four. These were not sailors, and I had no right to interfere with 
the way in which they were doing their work, unless they made 
some gross mistake which might waste space, or cause the cargo to 
shift, and endanger the stability of the ship at sea. Each gang had 
its own foreman, and they had much more experience in stowing 
cargo than I had. My brass buttons may have had some moral 
effect on them, and would probably deter them from broaching 
cargo, and certainly would prevent them from smoking, if their 
foreman could not control them; but I immediately realized, after 
sauntering around among the packages, and peering here and 

14 



there, that, if I said nothing, I would not reveal my ignorance. If 
I kept my eyes peeled, I would pick up some hints on stowing 
cargo which might be useful to me on future occasions. 

After a while, it was borne in on me, that, as no officer was down 
below in the other three holds, mine was only a put up job to keep 
the Third Mate occupied and out of the way on deck for the time 
being; so I didn't worry much more about it, and spent the rest 
of the forenoon in the enjoyment of being a Steamboat Officer 
at lastl with nothing to do except stand around observantly, with 
a knowing look. 

Work knocked off at noon for lunch. I went up on deck, and 
the Second Mate said, "Have you brought sandwiches with you? 
There's no food supplied while the ship is in port, but we can 
make tea for ourselves in the 'steam vase* in the pantry." 

As I had not brought lunch with me, Birse shared his with me 
that day, and the problem was solved. The "steam vase" was a 
step up in the world from the conditions I had known in sailing 
ships. They had no facilities for making tea on board while being 
loaded in home ports; we had to go ashore for lunch in the dock- 
side eating-houses or cocoa-rooms, which were known as "British 
Workmen's Public Houses.' 1 

The Mate showed me the passenger accommodation, and in- 
troduced me to the Engineer Officers Chief, Second, Third and 
Fourth all Scots and dour men. The dining saloon had two long 
tables, each with twelve chairs, which were screwed to the carpeted 
deck. The officers and passengers dined together at sea. There 
was a "smoking room," fitted with lounge chairs and a writing 
table; and a "sitting room," with settees, easychairs, and a pianot 
All these rooms were carpeted and paneled. What luxury! 

The S.S. Rembrandt, a single screw steamer, 4,279 tons gross, 
with steel hull and steel decks, had been built at Glasgow by 
D. and W. Henderson Limited, and launched in 1899. She was 
380 feet long, 45 feet beam, and had an average speed of 12 knots. 
She could carry 4,000 tons of cargo and 12 passengers. She was on 
the regular run from Liverpool to ports in Argentina, Uruguay, 
Brazil, and the Canary Islands, making on an average four voy- 
ages a year. 

15 



Home every three months! It seemed astonishing to me, after 
my service in sailing vessels, when I had made four voyages around 
the world in six years. All my thinking had to be recast. 

The Rembrandt carried a crew of eight seamen, plus a boat- 
swain, lamptrimmer, and storekeeper, six firemen and six coal 
trimmers, who were quartered under the foc's'lehead. There was 
a cook, and a galley boy to help him; a chief steward, second stew- 
ard and a stewardess. They and the carpenter there was no sail- 
maker! were quartered under the poop, where there was also 
some steerage passenger accommodation, used by stockmen when 
she carried cattle. 

The navigating officers therefore had at their disposal only eight 
seamen four in each watch, working four hours on and four off. 
Of these, when the ship was at sea, one seaman was at the wheel 
on the bridge, and another on lookout in the crow's nest. The 
other two were handy on deck, relieving the wheel and lookout 
after two hours in each watch. In port, all eight seamen were avail- 
able for cleaning and painting ship and overhauling gear. Any 
splicing of mooring ropes or wires was done by two of the sea- 
men who had the positions of boatswain and lamp trimmer; but 
the mechanical gear and all machinery were the concern of the 
engineers, not of the seamen. The loading and unloading of cargo 
was done by stevedores from on shore, though under control of the 
Mates. 

It appeared to me, as I took all this in, that seamanship, as I had 
learned it under sail, was practically nonexistent in a steamer. 
With no sail to handle, and scarcely any rigging to keep in repair, 
there seemed to be little work for seamen in a steamer, except 
cleaning and painting ship, steering and keeping lookout, moor- 
ing and unmooring. There were no planked decks to holystone 
except round about the bridge; no teak rails, and very few brass fit- 
tings to polish. The only men who had hard work were the stokers 
and trimmers, and I had nothing to do with them. 

It seemed to me that the life of a steamship officer was going to 
be dead easy, compared with that of an officer in sail. As I pon- 
dered the possibilities, I came to the conclusion that my new 

16 



job required more brains than brawn; in sail, both were needed 
in equal measure. 

After further consideration, and the experience of years, I 
became aware that seamanship in a steamer requires close atten- 
tion to routine detail, and constant alertness for unpredictable 
emergencies, in which instinct based on experience and special 
knowledge controls reactions which mean the difference between 
safety and disaster for the ship, and perhaps for the lives of all 
in her. But on this, my first acquaintance with life and work in 
a steamer, some time was required before I could overcome what 
I thought was a real sailorman's dislike of going to sea in an oblong 
iron box with a smoky stack and thudding engines, and no true 
sailorizing to be done . . . 

The Mate kept me at my duty of nominally supervising the 
stowing of the cargo in Number Two hold, until, after three days, 
the hold was full and the hatch covers put on. He then sent me 
down below in Number Four hold aft, which was the last to fin- 
ish loading. In the meantime, great activity was occurring on the 
shelter deck, where a gang of carpenters and shipwrights were 
building wooden stalls and pens for some pedigreed livestock we 
were to take to Buenos Aires. I now learned that one of our pas- 
sengers would be an Argentinian millionaire, the owner of a ranch 
up the country from Buenos Aires. He had been on a visit to 
England, Scotland, and Ireland, buying prize-winning stallions, 
mares, bulls, cows, pigs, poultry, and dogs to take back home with 
him. 

"Well be a Noah's Ark," said the Mate, irritably. The million- 
aire, a powerfully built man, with a broad-brim hat, curled mus- 
taches, and smoking a large cigar, came on board with his head 
stockman and groom, to inspect the shelter deck and stalls, and 
appeared to be satisfied with the accommodation to be provided 
for his valuable animals. 

We were due to "sail" such was the inaccurate term applied 
then, and still applied, to the departure from port of vessels not 
carrying one stitch of sail at midnight on March 7, 1905, the 
tide being full soon after that hour. 

17 



The loading of the cargo had been completed on the preceding 
day, and the hatchways covered with their hatches and tarpaulins, 
and battened down. This was the carpenter's work, and the Mate 
had left it to me to supervise. That day, too, the bunkers (sur- 
rounding the stokehold) had been filled with 1,000 tons of coal, 
from railway wagons run alongside and hoisted bodily from 
the bogies with a crane. The ship's tanks had been filled 
with many thousands of gallons of fresh water for the boilers, 
and for the personal needs of the passengers and crew and the 
animals on the outward voyage to our first port of call, Buenos 
Aires, some 6,000 miles, which we were scheduled to cover in three 
weeks. The water was piped in, under supervision of the carpen- 
ter, who had to sound the tanks to make sure that they were full, 
and that the ship did not get out of trim, or develop a list as the 
water was used. 

On "sailing" day, all hands joined up at 8 A.M., ready to assist 
to load the animals, which were coming at that time, and also to 
receive the passengers later in the day. 

Conditions of manning steamers were entirely different from 
those in sailing vessels. As a rule, a steamer seldom remained in 
port for more than a few days, or in her terminal port for longer 
than a week. She could arrive and depart on a fixed schedule, for 
she was not at the mercy of wind and weather, and could not be 
becalmed, or "headed off' 1 by adverse winds. 

Sailing vessels made port when they could, and remained in 
ports for weeks, sometimes for months, awaiting cargoes or char- 
ters. Their crews were paid off when they arrived at their home 
ports at the end of a voyage; and new crews were not signed on 
until sailing eve. 

The old traditions of sail were continued in steamers, to a cer- 
tain extent, in that crews signed on and signed off in their home 
ports, for each voyage; but, as the stay in port was so short, the 
ship's complement very often signed off and signed on again im- 
mediately, on arriving home; and were given instructions at the 
Board of Trade office to rejoin on a certain date that would be 
at 8 A.M. on the day of sailing. 

While the ship was in her home port, a shore gang of seamen 

18 



in her owners' employ did whatever was required in cleaning and 
painting the ship and overhauling her gear. They were like the 
riggers who bent sail in sailing vessels at the dockside, but had 
given up going to sea. 

Under this system, most of the A.B. seamen, firemen, and trim- 
mers in the S.S. Rembrandt had had continuity of seagoing em- 
ployment in her for many voyages previously. The firemen and 
trimmers were all "Liverpool Irish." They were tough-looking 
characters, who worked in the stokehold in dungarees, hobnailed 
boots, and flannel shirts, with a "sweat rag" round their necks, 
and came up on deck, clambering out of the fiddley like demons 
out of hell, grimy and sweaty, for an occasional breath of fresh 
air, or to go forward off watch. They worked four hours on and 
eight off. 

The A.B. seamen were old salts, who knew their work. Some of 
them, and some of the firemen and trimmers, came on board at 
midnight on sailing eve, slightly merry, to keep up traditions; but 
they turned to next morning, none the -worse for wear and tear. 

Loading the livestock was a novelty to me. It took most of the 
forenoon. A special gangway and staging were used, with planked 
sides and slatted gangplanks, along which the grooms and stock- 
men led and coaxed the timid and excited animals, and brought 
them to their stalls and pens, on the shelter deck. Two grooms 
and two stockmen were to travel with them, quartered under the 
poop. The millionaire rancher was on deck early, to see that the 
precious living cargo was stowed without mishap. 

There were a dozen racehorses, and a dozen stud beef-cattle, 
some of them worth thousands of pounds. After they were safely 
stowed in their stalls, several crates of prize pigs and poultry were 
swung inboard with a derrick and tackle, and six beautiful muz- 
zled grayhounds were led in on the leash, and kenneled. The stalls 
and pens had planked decking, covered in straw. Bales of hay and 
bags of chaff and corn were slung in and stowed in a compart- 
ment among the animals. 

The shelter deck, which we called "the Zoo," "the Menagerie," 
the "Farmyard," or "Noah's Ark," was enlivened by squeals, 
grunts, snorts, neighs, and bellows from the horses, cattle, and pigs; 

19 



barks and howls from the hounds; and clucks, crows, quacks, and 
gobbles from the prize poultry, at intervals throughout the day 
and night. It soon gave off a strong aroma of animal smells and 
stinks which are usually unfamiliar in a ship. 

During the afternoon, the passengers and their baggage came 
on board. The Blue Peter (the "P" signal-flag, a square of blue 
with a white square centered on it) was flying at the fore-yardarm, 
meaning, as old-time codebooks explained, "All persons are to 
repair on board, as the ship is about to sail." It might mean, also, 
in some cases, that all persons who had a claim for debt against 
the ship, or her master, should come and get it settled, before 
they were left lamenting. 

At our maintruck fluttered the house flag of Lamport and Holt, 
and at the foretruck the flag of Argentina, our country of destina- 
tion. Fluttering from the flagstaff on the poop was the "Red 
Duster" the ensign of the British mercantile marine. 

Lamport and Holt's ships had their hulls painted black, with 
a white line along the boot-topping, and white painted masts, der- 
ricks, ventilators, and superstructure. The funnel was painted in 
three broad bands of black, white, and blue. The company was 
an old established one, which had operated sailing vessels since 
1845 and steamers since 1865. Its house flag was a design of three 
horizontal stripes two red and one white between. 

Our passengers included the millionaire and his wife and three 
children, with a maidservant and manservant; two businessmen of 
Buenos Aires; and three English commercial travelers. The Chief 
Steward (who acted also as Purser) took charge of them, and in- 
stalled them in their cabins. The Second Mate gave me his idea of 
good advice: "Take no notice of the passengers, except at meal 
times, when you have to be polite to them. Otherwise, treat them 
as extra cargol" 

The Captain had a busy afternoon, conferring and signing 
papers with the owners, agents, shippers, consignees' agents, steve- 
dores, chandlers, towage agents, health officials, and port officials, 
to get his clearance papers. The First Mate and the Second Mate 
were here, there, and everywhere, inspecting the moorings, the 
fenders, the hatch covers, the lashings of any movable gear, the 

20 



lifeboats, and everything else that might affect the safety of the 
passengers, cargo, and livestock and the seaworthiness of the ship. 
The Engineers were oiling and greasing their engines and the 
winches, and raising a full head of steam down below. 

I appeared to be the only person on board with nothing special 
to do the odd man out. I rushed around with the Mate or the 
Second Mate, trying to make myself handy, and wondering "What 
is the use of a Third Mate in a ship, anyway?" 

Some of the male passengers, having finished stowing their 
^gg a ge, strolled out on deck for a smoke, and leaned, as pas- 
sengers will, idly against the rail, looking overboard in meditation. 
This gave me a series of minor shocks, as the first rule at sea in 
sailing ships is that no man must be idle on deck. Satan finds mis- 
chief, and Mates find work, for idle hands to do. I checked myself 
just in time from bawling at the idlers to get a move on. 

Night fell, and the lights were switched on. A gong sounded for 
dinner. The Mate said to me, "You and the Fourth Engineer 
stand watch on deck while we're at dinner, and you can have 
yours afterwards. Check the navigation lights and the spare oil 
lights with Lampy." 

I knew from my examination textbooks the lights required un- 
der the International Rules for Preventing Collisions at Sea. A 
sailing vessel under way, between sunset and sunrise, carries only 
red and green sidelights (red on the port side and green on the 
starboard) and a white sternlight these being all oil lamps but 
a steam vessel carries also a white light on the foremast and another 
on the mainmast (fifteen feet higher than the one on the foremast), 
and various other lights for use in special cases, such as "anchor 
lights" and two red "not under command" lights, beside a Morse 
signaling lamp, and pyrotechnic flares. 

In the S.S. Rembrandt, the lights were electric, including those 
on the mastheads; but the Board of Trade Regulations required 
every steamer to carry a spare set of oil lamps, filled, trimmed, and 
ready for instant use in case of any breakdown in the electric 
lighting system. 

The A.B. in charge of the oil lamps was known as the Lamp 
Trimmer, or "Lampy." He was an old Cape Horn sailor, who, in 

21 



addition to looking after the lamps, did any sailorizing work that 
might be required, such as splicing ropes or wires. I went to the 
lamp locker, and found Lampy already there, testing each of his 
lamps in turn, by lighting and trimming their wicks. He knew 
his work better than I did, but, as a matter of routine, I stayed 
with him until all the lamps were tested. 

"These 'lectric lights ain't reliable/' he growled. "Can't beat the 
old oil lamps and the old salts, sirl What do they do when their 
lights go out? 'Lampy, Lampy/ they sing out, and I get the spare 
oil lamps hoisted up in a jiffy or where'd they be? Sunk, that's 
where they'd bel" 

As the Fourth Engineer and I had our delayed dinner, final 
preparations were made for putting to sea. Two tugs came in 
through the river lock to the dock, and took their stations ahead 
and astern. At 1 1 P.M., a Mersey Pilot came aboard, and the gang- 
way was hauled up. The Mate went forward with three seamen, 
and the Second Mate aft with three more, to cast off the moorings, 
and make the towlines fast. 

I was ordered to go up on the bridge, to stand by with the Cap- 
tain, the Pilot and the A.B. at the wheel This was one of the 
great moments of my life. 

My job was to work the engineroom telegraph. 'It's foolproof," 
the Captain said. That was a very doubtful compliment to my 
intellect. I examined the instrument carefully, to be sure that I 
would make no fool's error. The dial was clearly marked. With 
the handle vertical, the pointer indicated STOP. The dial showed 
three speeds AHEAD SLOW, HALF, and FULL and likewise 
ASTERN, three speeds. 

Concentrating my attention, I waited, eager to work the fascinat- 
ing gadget, which would set the propeller revolving at the Pilot's 
orders. 

The Pilot looked out gloomily from the wing of the bridge. "A 
dirty night," he remarked. "Rain and sleet and wind, and as black 
as the inside of a cow!" 

The Captain sang out through his megaphone, fore and aft, 
"Make fast the tugs and stand by to cast off moorings." When 
this was done, he sang out, "Let go fore and af tl" 

22 



"Slow ahead," the Pilot ordered. 

I moved the handle of the telegraph cautiously, and precisely. 
There was a dang of the bell in the stokehold down below, and, 
with a gentle shudder and vibration, the screw began to revolve, 
and we were under way. 

Within a few minutes, as we neared the lock, the Pilot said, 
"Stop!" 

Clang! and the vibration ceased as we glided into the dim-lit 
lock, nosed by the tugs, with much singing out of orders from the 
Marine Superintendent on the wharf, and answers from the Mates 
and the tugmasters. 

The Captain and the Pilot conferred. "Better not go through 
until High Water/ 1 said the Pilot. "That will be in an hour from 
now." 

"Make fast there forward!" the Captain sang out. Then he said 
to me, "Go forward and tell the Mate we'll lay in the lock for an 
hour until High Water." 

I sprang down the companionway from the bridge, and hurried 
forward in the darkness. When I reached the fo'c'slehead, being 
unfamiliar with the hazards there, I had not sufficiently noticed 
that there were two holes in the iron deck one on the port side 
and one on the starboard side the hawsepipes where the anchor 
cables were hove through to the windlass. Hastening along the 
port side, I trod in the hawsepipe and fell flat, feeling a sharp 
pain as my shin made contact with the iron edge of the hole. 

Instantly I scrambled to my feet. "What's wrong with you?" 
asked the Mate. "Drunk?" 

"Nothing much," I said, as calmly as possible, though I was 
wondering if I had broken my leg. "The Captain says we're to lay 
in the lock for an hour until High Water." 

"All right, then," the Mate grunted. "Hurry back, and watch, 
your step." 

He gave orders to make the ship fast, and I hurried to the 
bridge, along the starboard side, giving a wide berth to the hole 
which had caused my downfall. The result was that I fell into 
the hole on the other side, in precisely the same manner, and nearly 
broke my other leg! 

23 



The pain was severe, and I could feel blood trickling down both 
shins; but, at such an important moment in my nautical career 
I had too much pride to tell the Captain that I was injured in 
such a lubberly way. 

Arrived on the bridge, I stood by the telegraph again, trying not 
to wince or show any pain. I was afraid the Captain might send 
me below. I couldn't bear to be ordered off the bridge the first 
time I was ever on duty on it. The blood was trickling into my 
boots. I looked down anxiously to see if it was staining the deck. 

The Captain remained on the bridge, yarning to the Pilot I 
was suffering from pain and chagrin, but determined to give no 
sign of either. After what seemed to me a very long hour, we got 
under way again, with much megaphoning, and clanging of tele- 
graphs, and passed through the river lock gates into the Mersey 
stream. 

The tugs towed us to midstream, and then cast off. We pro- 
ceeded downriver, seven miles, at first dead slow, then at half 
speed. 

The lights of Liverpool receded astern. We crossed the Bar, and 
the Rembrandt rose to the surge of the seas in a brisk northwesterly 
gale. The pilot steamer, with her all-round red light eight feet 
below her white masthead light, came in sight, and sent off a small 
boat as we hove to, and the pilot climbed down the Jacob's lad- 
der, and shoved off. 

"Full speed ahead!" the Captain ordered. I moved the telegraph, 
exulting in its clang. Next came the order, "Off stations and set 
watches" and sea routine had begun. 

It was 2 A.M. The Second Mate came on the bridge and took 
over. The Captain wrote out his night orders and went below. 

"You can turn in," the Second Mate said to me. "It's been a long 
day, and you'll be on again at 4 A*M. with the Mate." 

I limped from the bridge. My shins were bruised and bleeding, 
but no bones were broken. I had learned, in the school of experi- 
ence, that, even in steamers, a man has to be ready to take some 
hard knocks, and to watch his step. 



24 



CHAPTER THREE 



Sailorizing Made Easy Traffic in the Irish Sea 
Scilly Light Abeam The Chops of the Chan- 
nel Open Water J Take Over a Watch An 
Ambition Achieved We Arrive at Buenos Aires 
A Glimpse of the Gay Life Montevideo 
The Famous Haven of Rio de Janeiro Colorful 
Bahia The Ease of Navigation in Steam Ca- 
nary Wine Las Palmas Home and Time to 
Leave Her "On the Beach" Again. 



AT 6.30 A.M., the second steward brought tea and toast to the 
bridge. I went into the wheel house and showed him my bruised 
shins. 'Til put a dressing on it, sir/' he said. "When did you do it? 
How did it happen? Why didn't you call me before? I'm the as- 
sistant doctor in this shipl" 

"It happened last night," I told him. "I fell into the hawsepipe 
forward in the dark. I'm green in a steamer, and I didn't want to 
disturb the Captain when the pilot was aboard." 

The steward was an old sailing ship man. "Things are different 
in steam, sir," he said, sympathetically. "The Cap'n doesn't at- 
tend to injuries in a steamer, unless they're very serious. He leaves 
'em to me or my boss." 

With ointment and bandages on my shins, I limped into the 

25 



saloon for breakfast, when I went off duty with the Mate at 8 A.M. 
We were steaming southwards in the Irish Sea, doing twelve knots 
in a quartering northwesterly breeze, with clear skies. In these 
narrow waters, the First Mate and Second Mate stood alternate 
watches on the bridge, four hours on and four hours off, as in sail- 
ing vessels. 

I stood watch with the First Mate, to be initiated into the rou- 
tine. It took me quite a while to get used to walking to and fro 
on the bridge, with little to do except to keep a lookout, watch 
the steering, take bearings on occasional landmarks, and check 
the compass error. No sails to trim, no pully-hauly, and little need 
to take heed of the force or direction of the wind! 

This was sailorizing made easyl The engine telegraph stood at 
FULL AHEAD, and there would be no need to touch it again, 
perhaps for weeks, until we neared port, unless an emergency 
arose. The helmsman so-called from sailing ship tradition was 
a grizzled A.B, He handled the wheel, keeping the ship on the set 
compass course. The steering gear was steam driven, and moved 
the rudder at the slightest touch of the wheel, requiring scarcely 
any manual effort. 

The Captain came occasionally onto the bridge to look around 
for a few minutes, and to receive the reports of the officer of the 
watch, but spent most of his time below, in his cabin or the chart- 
room, working out navigational sights, setting courses, making 
official log book entries, attending to the ship's papers and to other 
routine matters, and to complaints or whatever emergencies might 
arise. His was the final responsibility, and he was on duty twenty- 
four hours a day, as Captains always must be, to be called or in- 
formed instantly if anything unusual developed, and on the prowl 
around the ship whenever he felt inclined. 

In these narrow waters, we navigated by bearings of landmarks, 
and by dead reckoning, and took routine sights of the sun, moon, 
or stars, as required. Dead reckoning was computed from readings 
of the Patent Log, which was a novelty to me, though I knew in 
theory how it worked. 

In sailing vessels we had used the Hand Loga drogue towed 
astern, indicating the speed in knots by a line running out from a 

26 



reel over the stern rail, marked with knotted yarn, checked with 
a half-minute sandglass. To "heave the log" was a manual op- 
eration, usually performed by one of the Mates and two or three of 
the apprentices. It gave only an approximation of the speed at the 
moment when the log was heaved. This result was reliable for dead 
reckoning only when the force and direction of the wind remained 
constant, which rarely happened. 

The Patent Log was in every way a superior instrument. It 
could be used as well in a sailing vessel as in a steamer, but most 
owners of sailing vessels begrudged the expense. Its operation was 
simple and accurate, almost "foolproof." The device consists of a 
metal fan, towed astern for the whole voyage after clearing port. 
The vanes of the fan revolve as it is towed through the water at 
the end of a woven line 100 fathoms long. The revolutions of the 
fan are conveyed by the line to a dial secured to the rail aft. This 
shows the number of nautical miles the ship has run since the dial 
was set. It is usually set at noon, and thereafter read every hour 
by a junior officer or one of the Able Seamen. In a steamer the dial 
is usually carried at the end of an outrigger, to keep the fan clear 
of the wash from the propeller, which would cause it to give a 
false reading. 

The Mate sent me to read the log, which was an activity of some 
use, compared with my standby efforts on the bridge. 

The poop with its centuries of tradition as the quarter-deck, 
the citadel of authority, in sailing vessels was bare and desolate 
in this flush deck steamer. There was nothing on it except an 
auxiliary steering wheel, the sounding machine, and mooring bitts, 
and winches. There was no skylight of the Captain's cabin, no 
polished brass and teakwood fittings, no binnacle, no harness 
cask with putrid pork smelling to high heaven. It was just the 
afterend, or as a lady passenger called it, "the blunt end" of the 
ship, with no sentiment attached to it; yet, beneath its overhang, 
the propeller throbbed, churning the water with the power that 
drove us on; and the rudder, though operated by remote control, 
kept us on course. 

From force of habit, I glanced forward and aloft; but the mid- 
ship deckhouse blocked the view of the bow, and there was no 

27 



swelling canvas aloft: the mainmast was bare, and there was no 
whistle of the wind in the rigging. I read the dial of the Patent Log, 
and as I did so, softly sang to myself the words of the old favorite: 

Once more he heaves the reeling log, 
Which marks the leeway and the course: 
Larboard Watch, Ahoy! 

Passengers were lounging around on the deck, smoking and talk- 
ing idle. Not a seaman among them! My heart sank as I realized 
that men in steamers do not sing at their work. Never again, per- 
haps, would I hear and join in a chanty chorus as a crowd of 
toughened men tailed on to the main topsail halyards or to heave 
up the anchor, Rolling Home, working in unison and rhythm 
with songs on their lips the songs of seafarers for centuries, 
doomed to disuse in a mechanized world. 

Only the thudding of the engines, driving the ship on, regard- 
less of wind and weather: and men the servants of the machines! 
Ah, well, it was no use regretting the passing of u the good old days." 
Progress was inevitable, and I, like everyone else, would have 
less work to do when machines replaced muscle power and wind 
power. There was a new lore to learn, and I was young enough, 
and keen enough, to learn it. 

Returned to the bridge, I reported the log reading to the Mate, 
and resumed pacing on the port wing, eyeing the weather and 
the interesting variety of traffic in the Irish Sea. We were now in 
St. George's Channel, off Cardigan Bay in Wales, and there were 
many fishing trawlers at work, flying signals to indicate what sort 
of gear they were using, such as lines, trawls, or seines. It was 
necessary to alter our course slightly to give them a wide berth. 

As a matter of routine, we scanned every vessel that came in 
sight for signals of identification. In these narrow waters so- 
called, though St. George's Channel is from sixty to eighty miles 
wide vessels often hoisted their code-numbers of identification. 
But some shipmasters economically avoided wear and tear of 
their flags which might become tattered in the breeze. 

We were seldom out of sight of vessels under sail or steam, 

28 



proceeding up-channel, down-channel, or across-channel. Among 
them we sighted several full-rigged ships and barques standing to 
the northward on tacks, nearing their home ports after months 
at sea. They had the right-o'-way when they were standing across 
our bows, or at any other time. The Mate and I scanned these dear 
old windbags with sentimental affection discussing their rig, and 
imagining though without too much envy the scene on their 
decks and aloft as they worked up-channel in the choppy seas 
whipped by the norwesterly breeze. 

The 5.5. Rembrandt did not carry wireless which, in 1905 was 
still a novelty and in consequence all our signaling was visual. 
We met a warship, and dutifully dipped our ensign to her. The 
lookout man in our crow's nest did not have a telephone this 
instrument was rare in ships in those days. When he sighted any- 
thing unusual, he sounded a bell to attract the attention of the 
officer of the watch, then sang out, "Sail on the port bow," or 
whatever else he sighted, and if necessary we altered course ac- 
cordingly. As a rule the lookout man sounded his bell once for 
an object to starboard, twice for an object to port, and three times 
for an object right ahead. 

Early in the watch he reported a sailing ship dead ahead. The 
Mate and I soon sighted her royals and topgallants on the horizon, 
but, though we were doing all of twelve knots, she kept her dis- 
tance ahead of us, and we never sighted her topsails. Evidently she 
was a flyer, outward bound from Liverpool or Glasgow, carrying 
a full press of sail in the fair wind. We discussed her with ad- 
miration. 

At noon, we took sights of the sun for latitude, and the Second 
Mate took over on the bridge. I went below for four hours, and 
from force of habit turned in to my bunk; but not to sleep, as my 
efforts on watch had certainly not exhausted me. At 1 P.M. the 
gong sounded for lunch, and I went to the saloon, fully brass- 
bound, to enjoy a well-cooked, well-served meal and the company 
of the passengers. This was the life! 

From 4 P.M. to 8 P.M., I was again on the bridge with the Mate. 
The strangeness was wearing off, and I had grasped the essentials 
of a routine that was to govern my way of life for more years ahead 

29 



than I could imagine at that time. At midnight, when I came on 
watch again, we had the Sciily Islands Light abeam, the last land- 
mark of England, and we were rolling in the Chops of the Channel 
in a stiff westerly gale. 

No pully-hauly, no flooded decks, nothing to do but navigate! 
The bridge was sheltered from wind and rain. I had a woolen 
overcoat and scarf, but there was no need for oilskins and Soul- 
and-Body Lashings. It was a soft life, in comparison with what I 
had been used to, but not mentally so. There was need for con- 
tinual alertness and keen lookout for lights ahead and athwart our 
course in this track of the Atlantic shipping bound to and from 
Southampton and Portsmouth, the Straits of Dover and the French 
ports. 

The night was as black as the Earl o Hell's riding boots, 
with heavy rain, so an extra lookout man was posted on the 
bow* In thick weather, the visibility is often better from the lower 
position on the bow than from the crow's nest or the bridge. 

The Mate paced the weather side and I the lee side of the bridge, 
on the lookout for lights ahead of us or on the bows, especially of 
sailing vessels, whose sidelights and sternlights, of oil lamps, as we 
well knew, often burned dimly. We glanced frequently at our own 
sidelights, to make sure that they were ''burning brightly/' 

But the ocean is wide, and there is sea room for all. We sighted 
three sailing vessels, standing up-channel with the fair wind at a 
cracking pace, and one laboriously beating to windward, besides 
several steamers standing across our bows, but we gave them all 
a wide berth. 

When the Second Mate took over at 4 A.M., the gale was easing. 
I turned in to my bunk and slept soundly, after listening for 
a while, with some dislike, to the thumping and thudding of the 
engines, and the metallic clang, as the stokers down below rattled 
their shovels impatiently on the furnace doors as a signal to the 
trimmers to hurry along with more coal. 

In two days more, making an average of approximately 280 
miles a day, we were far from the land, and beyond the track of 
westbound and eastbound shipping, except for that to and from 
Northern Spain, Portugal, and the Strait of Gibraltar. 

30 



Then came another of the occasions in my life which were 
memorable for me, as the Captain decided that I had gained 
enough experience to stand a watch unaided on the bridge. I took 
over the watches from 8 A.M. to noon, and from 8 P.M. to midnight 
As far as the Mates were concerned, the day was now divided into 
three watches four hours on and eight hours off for each of us 
a luxuryl 

It was a clear day and fine weather when I stood my first watch 
on the bridge, with no company except that of the helmsman, 
and occasional visits from the Old Man, who satisfied himself that 
I had "learned the ropes" as a steamboat officer, at least in the open 
ocean! Time would make that routine very familiar to me, but 
would never dim the memory of the thrill of satisfaction I felt 
when I first paced the bridge of a steamer, responsible for her 
navigation and safety for the time being, even though there were 
no difficulties in sight! 

Time dims many memories, and long usage creates habits which 
become almost automatic. But the first experience gives the keen- 
est enjoyment, when every faculty must be alert, to anticipate and 
ward off mishaps of any kind that might adversely affect efficiency, 
economy, or safety. On that clear and sunny morning, in the wide 
ocean, I had nothing to worry about; but I was more worried then, 
by the weight of my responsibilities, than many a time later in far 
tighter corners. Nothing abnormal occurred in my first watch on 
the bridge, except the tumult of my inner feelings, which I care- 
fully concealed. At the change of the watch at noon, when I handed 
over to the Second Mate, after we had both taken sights, and 
compared calculations, the Old Man said to me, "Well, you did 
nothing wrong!" 

And that was high praise . . . 

The three-weeks voyage out to Buenos Aires was "uneventful," 
which means only that no major mishaps occurred, and we arrived 
on schedule. Still it was eventful and momentous for me, as in 
that time I learned routines and acquired habits which would re- 
main with me for the rest of my seafaring life. 

I was lucky to learn the ways of steam in a well-found steamer, 

31 



with the tutoring o seniors who knew their work completely. The 
S.S. Rembrandt was not "shipshape and Bristol fashion" in the 
sense of the sailing vessels, in which crews of twenty or more 
seamen and apprentices had to be kept constantly at work on 
deck and aloft, furbishing ship, when not handling sail. But the 
steel blocks and wires for working the derricks had to be kept in 
good fettle, and there was a constant battle to counteract rust, 
by washing and painting in all parts of the deck. 

The Trade Winds, so important in sail, made no practical dif- 
ference to us as we churned along in the Fine Weather Latitudes, 
almost indifferent to wind and weather. 

Occasionally we sighted other vessels, in sail or steam, and ex- 
changed signals, if they were within visual signaling range; but 
for the greater part of the route we were alone within our horizon. 
As we passed through the Doldrums, we saw some windbags be- 
calmed poor unfortunatesl How vividly I could imagine the 
feelings of the men in them when they sighted us steaming along 
at twelve knots in comfort while they lay at a standstill, with limp 
sails, waiting and whistling for a breezel 

That settled any doubts that might have lingered in my mind on 
the wisdom of my decision to go into steam. 

After what seemed to me an amazingly quick passage, we were in 
Lat, 35 deg. S., and standing in westwards into the wide mouth of 
the Rio de la Plata, keeping a lookout for the Light Vessel off 
Montevideo, which marks the approach to Buenos Aires. Soon we 
sighted some steamers leaving port and exchanged signals. We re- 
duced speed, and timed our arrival at the Light Vessel at dawn. 
There we embarked an Argentinian pilot, and by 5 p.m. we were 
safely berthed at Buenos Aires. The river throughout the passage 
from the Light Vessel to the city is shallow and muddy, with strong 
currents. Many steamers and sailing vessels have been grounded 
there on the mudbanks, sometimes remaining for weeks, until a 
flood in the river enabled them to be floated or towed off. 

Our passengers were quickly ashore, and then began the un- 
loading of the livestock, which had all arrived in good condition. 
Next day the hatches were opened, and we began discharging car- 

32 



go, with the steam winches and derricks, and the labor of steve- 
dores. My job was to stand by Number Two hold, with the fore- 
man stevedore and the consignees' agents, to exercise a general su- 
pervision, while the Mate and the Second Mate watched the other 
holds; but our presence was mainly a matter of formality, and 
we were more ornamental than useful. Our seamen were given 
some painting to do, on deck and overside, but there was none 
of the complicated overhauling of gear necessary in sailing vessels 
in port. 

We lay at Buenos Aires for a fortnight, discharging and taking 
in cargo. The Second Mate and I spent evenings ashore strolling 
the boulevards of this beautiful city, with its open air cafes and 
bright night life offering many more attractions than we could 
afford. 

Compared with the ports I had been in on the West Coast of 
South America, Buenos Aires was a large and thriving city, with 
beautiful public buildings and modern shops, and everything up- 
to-date. At this time it had a population of nearly a million, and 
reminded me somewhat of Melbourne, Australia, in its wide 
streets, mild climate, and carefree atmosphere. 

The time came all too soon when we cast off our moorings, and, 
with a Plate Pilot on board, dropped down river, 125 miles, to 
Montevideo in Uruguay, where we were to load hides, and take 
on some passengers. Here we remained four days, with some ex- 
plorations ashore in the evenings the attractions being similar 
to those of Buenos Aires, though less stylish. 

Montevideo was a favorite sailing ship port. Much nearer open 
water than Buenos Aires, it had an anchorage which windjammers 
could reach unaided, or with small expense for towage. A line of 
Portuguese sailing vessels, well built and equipped, and manned 
by excellent seamen, traded to Montevideo from Lisbon, and from 
ports in France, Spain, and Italy, bringing out general merchandise 
and coal, and lifting cargoes of hides, tallow, and wool. They 
traded also to ports in Brazil, despite the competition of steamers. 
The Portuguese, who were the first mariners to find a way to 
India around the Cape of Good Hope, have a wonderful tradition 
of seamanship in sail, maintained for 600 years, which lingered 

33 



even until the middle of the twentieth century, when there were 
still some oceangoing sailing vessels under the Portuguese flag. 

From Montevideo we put out to sea and coasted northwards for 
1,020 miles to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, taking four days on the 
passage. When we entered the superb and famous harbor of Rio, 
I began to feel that I was on a luxury sightseeing cruise. Never be- 
fore or since, except at Rio itself have I seen such a glorious 
natural haven of ships. Sydney Harbor, in Australia, almost equals 
it, but lacks the surrounding mountain peaks which make Rio 
scenically wonderful. 

We picked up a pilot, and, after an easy approach, berthed at a 
quay alongside a beautiful square at the foot of the main street, 
Nothing could be handier! 

For several days, we were loading coffee and rubber, with agree- 
able evenings ashore, handicapped only by the chronic complaint 
of junior ships' officers shortage of cash but, as the pleasures of 
Rio were plentiful and cheap, the Second Mate and I managed to 
enjoy ourselves without being ruined, financially or otherwise. 

Apart from the financial, and possibly the moral, considerations, 
I felt it would be distinctly imprudent to make the pace too hot 
in these delightful South American ports, as the Captain's eagle 
eye would detect any signs of undue lassitude next morning, when 
there was work to be done. I couldn't afford to risk a reprimand, or 
an adverse report from him at the end of the voyage, which might 
put me "on the beach." 

So I was careful to return on board about midnight, as re- 
spectably as possible in the circumstances* We finished loading, 
and embarked some passengers, then cleared out, bound north- 
wards along the coast of Brazil to Bahia (also known as San Sal- 
vador) on the Bay of All Saints. This was a run of 737 miles from 
port to port, which took three days. 

We were now in the Tropics, as Bahia is 12 deg. S* of the Equa- 
tor. This is one of the oldest Portuguese settlements in Brazil, pic- 
turesque with its white houses, bright flowers, and vivid green 
trees. It was a substantial city of some 200,000 inhabitants, many 
of whom were Negroes, the descendants of slaves brought from 

34 



Africa in the bad old days, to work in the sugar plantations and 
cottonfields. 

We lay there three days, loading bales of cotton, mahogany logs, 
sugar, and tobacco. I was now quite convinced that the life of a 
steamship officer was giving me opportunities of "seeing the world" 
with very little effort required on my part; and I was being paid 
as well! 

A few more passengers came aboard here, and we had almost a 
full cargo, but we were scheduled to make one more call on the 
homeward run at Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands, to load 
wine and bananas. 

The passage from Bahia and Las Palmas, 2,600 miles north- 
easterly across the Atlantic, took ten days. We were in tropical 
waters for most of the passage, and saw several windjammers flat 
becalmed, or struggling to make headway in the fitful light airs 
of the Doldrums. Our route led us within sight of St. Paul's Rocks, 
one degree north of the Equator, a barren uninhabited group of 
islets, which is the only landmark in this tract of the ocean, and 
usually given a wide berth by sailing vessels, as it is unlit; but to us 
it was a convenient fix, as we passed it in daytime. 

Our next sight of land was the Cape Verde Islands, in 17 deg. N., 
a Portuguese possession off the coast of Senegal, West Africa. On 
voyages in sailing vessels, outward bound from England, I had 
spent some anxious hours, as an apprentice and Second Mate, 
looking out for these islands, which are a hazard in hours of dark- 
ness if the ship's chronometer is not perfectly rated and the Master, 
in consequence, unsure of his position. This was usually the state 
of affairs (before the introduction of wireless time-signals) in ships 
which carried only one chronometer. An error of four seconds in 
the chronometer throws the calculation of longitude out one min- 
ute of arc (equal to one nautical mile on the Equator). 

Sailing vessels usually took three weeks from England to the 
latitude of the Cape Verde Islands. In that period, no Captain 
could be certain if his chronometer had lost or gained, and to what 
extent. A fix on the coast of the Cape Verde Islands was desirable 
as a means of making a check on the rating of the chronometer. 

35 



This was usually the only land likely to be sighted on voyages, out- 
ward bound from England to Australia, in cargo-carrying sailing 
vessels. The navigator's ideal was to sight the Cape Verde Islands 
from twenty miles or more to westward, in daytime; but if the 
Master was unsure of his position, and likely to be in the vicinity 
of the islands at nighttime, he stood well to the westward, gave 
them a wide berth, and so lost his chance of getting a fix, rather 
than risk piling his ship up on the shore. 

How different in steam! The 5.5. Rembrandt, with her Patent 
Log and three chronometers, which could be compared one with 
the other, had every facility for exact calculation of our position 
any hour of the day or night provided that sun, moon, or stars 
and a clear horizon were visible. She could hold a compass course 
in any weather, on the most direct track from port to port, without 
the interminable zigzag tracks of sailing vessels making tacks in 
winds of variable force and direction. 

With three qualified navigating officers (in addition to the Cap- 
tain) taking sights, and hourly readings of the Patent Log, we 
knew at any time with certainty exactly where xve were, and when 
we would make a landfall. There was no need to give the Cape 
Verde Islands a wide berth. On the contrary, our route on this 
passage would take us between the islands of the archipelago. Con- 
fident of our position, we were able to navigate at full speed 
through the channels between the islands, and they were out of 
sight astern within a few hours. 

Such efficiency and ease of handling the ship and its navigation, 
as compared with the caution and uncertainty of sail, made a deep 
impression on my mind. It was evident that steam was far su- 
perior to sail in every practical aspect, and the glory of sail would 
linger only as a romantic memory. Yet, because the difficulties and 
dangers of handling sailing vessels were greater than those in 
steamers, the men who met those difficulties and dangers, and over- 
came them, required greater skill in seamanship, and greater 
physical endurance, than men who were machine propelled. 

We arrived at Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands, on schedule 
and uneventfully. The port, on the shore of Gran Canaria Island, 
nestles at the foot of a volcanic cone 6,400 feet high, covered with 

36 



bright green forests and vineyards. The islands belong to Spain. 

We remained only two days, taking in bunker coal, and loading 
pipes of Canary wine and crates of bananas. Some Argentinian 
ladies among our passengers, who naturally could speak Spanish 
perfectly, were considerably amused as we learned later by the 
appalling bad language used by the Spanish-speaking stevedores, 
of which we understood not one word. 

Dozens of small boats lay alongside us, with hawkers offering 
fruit, flowers, and singing canary-birds for sale. I was attracted by 
a canary which sang most beautifully in a cage. I bought it for a 
dollar and proudly installed it in my cabin, intending it as a 
present for my mother. 

Alas, it never sang again. After some days, I realized that the 
wily vendor had substituted a dumb cluck when I wasn't looking. 

We arrived at Liverpool, to berth in the Huskisson Dock, on 
May 31, after a voyage which had lasted exactly twelve weeks. 

I had eighteen pounds owing to me, and thought that it had 
been easily earned. The voyage had been practically a pleasure 
cruise, in comparison with a voyage in sail, but in addition it had 
been an instructive experience for me. I had learned how to work 
in a steamer, at sea and in port, and I was no longer "green" in 
steam. I was lucky, for many another young officer of that period 
made his maiden voyage in steam in much more difficult condi- 
tions than those I had encountered. 

But there was a problem to worry me, as nothing is perfect. 
While serving as Third Mate, I was not "getting my time in" to 
sit for the Master Mariner's examination. The regulations of the 
Board of Trade required that, after passing the First Mate's 
examination, a candidate for a Master Mariner's certificate must 
have served for at least eighteen months at sea in a capacity not 
lower than Second Mate. From this point of view, my voyage in the 
S.S. Rembrandt, as Third Mate, would not count at all, and was 
therefore a waste of time. 

I decided to leave her. Impatient as I was to get my Master's cer- 
tificate while I was still in the mood for studying, I signed off, 
drew my eighteen pounds, and went looking for a job as Second 

37 



Mate. Once again, I was "on the beach/' but at least I had now a 
satisfactory reference from Captain Royce that I had served in a 
well-known steamer. 

Eagerly I made the round of the shipping offices and employ- 
ment agencies at Liverpool, only to find that vacancies were few 
and applicants many for work in steamers, in those times when 
hundreds of sailing ship officers were striving to get into steam: 
men with much more seniority and experience than I. In these 
conditions, men who had steady work in steamers seldom left of 
their own free will, and the shipping companies could pick and 
choose to fill the few vacancies that occurred. 

After a week of rebuffs, I began to rue my rashness in leaving 
the Rembrandt so impulsively; but the decision had been taken, 
and it was too late for regrets. Hope and ambition still buoyed 
me at the end of a second week of fruitless trudging the docks; 
but I was counting my pennies now, in anticipation of a long spell 
ashore. 

At the end of the third week, I had almost made up my mind 
to apply for a job as First Mate or Second Mate in sail, to "get 
my time in" that way. There were several positions offering, for 
the usual long voyages, of a year or more, and the temptation was 
strong, for I still loved the real sailorizing ways of the windjam- 
mers. I tussled with myself, for this was a crisis in my career. If I 
had gone back to sail, I might never have got out of it again. 

Fate took a hand in the game. I decided to make one more 
round of the steamship offices. The first office I entered was that 
of the Leyland Line, where the desk clerk now knew me well by 
sight, as I had pestered him a dozen times previously. He greeted 
me with some cordiality. "Our steamer Texan, trading to the West 
Indies," he said, "needs a Second Officer. See the Marine Superin- 
tendent without delay! You're the first in this morning!" 

I hurried along. The M.S. was affable. I told him why I had left 
the Rembrandt. I needed to get my time in for Master. He was 
thoroughly sympathetic. "We can sign you on as Second Officer," 
he said. 

My spirits fell as he explained further, "We sign on a Chief Of- 
38 



ficer, a First Officer and a Second Officer. We don't call them 
Mates on the articles. We call them Officers." 

"Does that mean," I asked, "that the Second Officer is really the 
Third Mate?" 

"You work three watches, four hours on and eight hours off. 
The Second Officer means Second Officer, doesn't it? If you serve 
eighteen months as Second Officer, that ought to satisfy the Board 
of Tradel If you don't want the job, plenty of others dol" 

I concealed my doubts, and signed on. It would be a good ex- 
perience, anyway. I had always wanted to see the West Indies. 



39 



CHAPTER FOUR 



A Voyage to the West Indies The S.S. "Texan" 
A Silent Captain Why a Ship is a "She" 
The Blue Caribbean Jamaica Rum The Port 
of Colon in 1905 Beginning of the Panama 
Canal Gigantic American Achievement The 
Gulf of Mexico The Gulf Stream The Missis- 
sippi Delta Quarantine at New Orleans Fever 
Raging / Take a Chance Key West Home 
Safe "On the Beach" Again. 



THE S.S. Texan, 2,999 tons, was an old-fashioned, well-found, 
single-screw, clipper-bow, iron-hulled steamer, 360 feet long and 
41 feet beam, built by Harland and Wolff, and launched at Belfast 
in 1883. She had a "three island profile," with raised forecastle 
head, bridge and poopdeck, and welldecks before and abaft the 
bridge. She carried two old style iron anchors ("bowers"), like a 
sailing ship, and also had other features of sailing ship design, 
such as teakwood companionways and rails, brass fittings, and 
planked decks. She had a speed of ten knots, and had been for 
many years in regular service on the run from Liverpool to the 
West Indies, with passengers, mails, and general cargo. 

The Texan had accommodation for thirty passengers. Their 
cabins were ranged on the 'tweendeck, with long alleyways, and 

40 



paneled dining saloon, writing-room, smoking-room, and lounge 
amidships under the bridge deckhouse. Some passengers were ac- 
commodated also in the steerage under the poop. This was the 
first vessel in which I had served in which the passengers were not 
merely extra cargo, but numerous enough to be as profitable to 
the owners as the more inert cargo in the holds. 

The Captain, O. Lund, was a Dane, who had served many years 
in English ships, in both sail and steam, and spoke English with 
only a slight trace of the Danish accent. This did not matter, as 
he was the most silent shipmaster I have ever known. He never 
spoke a word more than was absolutely necessary, and conveyed 
most of his commands with a swift glance and movement of his 
head or hands, by sign language, or by grunts of approval or dis- 
approval. These were sufficient, as he was a very fine seaman, who 
quickly compelled respect. He was a short, stocky, broad shoul- 
dered, burly, powerfully built man, nearly as broad as he was 
long, with a red face, keen blue eyes, and graying fair hair: a 
formidable personality. 

The Chief Officer, James Thomas, was a keen man in his thirties, 
who had served his time in sail and held a Master's Ticket. He 
was anxious to get on in the Leyland Line and obtain a com- 
mand. He therefore took his duties very seriously, seldom smiled 
or joked, and felt it was his personal heavy responsibility to see 
that everything was shipshape and Bristol fashion. 

The First Officer, John Kelly, was a bit of a rough diamond, and 
a few years older than I. He had served his time in sail, and gone 
into steam after passing his Second Mate's examination. He had 
passed for First Mate, and was getting in his time to sit for Master. 

Soon after I joined the ship, I realized that my position as 
Second Officer was equivalent to that of Third Mate, and that my 
duties would be the same as those of Third Mate in the S.S. Rem- 
brandt, standing watches at sea, in rotation with the Chief Officer 
and the First Officer, four hours on and eight hours off. I doubted 
whether this would be considered by the Board of Trade ex- 
aminers as time served as Second Mate; but I decided to make one 
voyage to test the matter, and to gain experience. 

The Texan carried a Chief Engineer, and Second, Third, and 

41 



Fourth Engineers, with six stokers and six trimmers. On deck we 
had eight A.B. seamen, a bosun, and a carpenter. The ship had 
also a Purser, who thank goodness! had most of the worries of 
looking after the passengers; and a chief steward, who controlled a 
staff of two cooks, three stewards, and a stewardess. 

As we were to call at several ports, the stowing of the cargo 
2,000 tons of general merchandise, including chiefly textiles, hard- 
ware, fancy goods, groceries, and other manufactured goods in 
the four holds, required careful supervision so that it could be 
discharged partially at each port of call, in sequence, with a 
minimum of handling and without disturbing the trim. 

The stowing of the cargo was the work of the experienced steve- 
dores, but I was sent down below with a copy of the manifest to 
keep an eye on what was being done. The zealous Chief Officer 
plagued the foreman stevedore and the First Officer and myself 
with frequent inquiries and inspections of the progress of the 
work, until it was all stowed to his satisfaction. 

The mails and passengers came aboard on sailing day, with 
several hours of excitement, as friends and relatives of the passen- 
gers came to see them off, obstructing the decks and alleyways. We 
were to "sail" at $ P.M. 

All persons going ashore were cleared off at 2 P.M., and the Chief 
Officer told me to make a search in any likely places for stowaways. 
This was new routine for me, and I felt at a disadvantage, with 
thirty passengers, all strangers to me, roaming around. The stew- 
ards were also told to keep an eye on bathrooms, toilets, or other 
lurking places. In the bustle and excitement it would have been 
almost impossible to tell who was a passenger and who might be 
a stowaway. I scarcely knew even the crew members by sight. I 
looked into the lamp locker, rope locker, storerooms, and a few 
other likely hiding places, without result. If there were any stow- 
aways, they would be detected in the usual way, when they gave 
themselves up through starvation or thirst, after the ship was at 
sea. 

The tugs came alongside, we cast off our moorings, moved out 
into the Mersey, and my second voyage in steam had begun. After 
we had cleared the Bar and dropped the Pilot, the Chief Officer, 

42 



First Officer, and I began standing our watches in rotation on the 
bridge, as we headed southwards in the Irish Sea. Mine was the 
watch from 8 P.M. to midnight. Captain Lund came on to the 
bridge shortly after I took over, and stood there for two hours 
without speaking a word, until he was satisfied that I knew my 
work. Then he grunted, "Carry on!" and went below. 

We rounded the Tuskar Rock lighthouse and the Saltees light- 
ship at the southeastern corner of Ireland, and stood away to the 
southwestward, getting our last sight of land at the Old Head of 
Kinsale, then set course across the Western Ocean for our first 
port of call, Kingston, Jamaica, a passage of 4,026 miles from Liver- 
pool. 

In this summer season, at the end of June, 1905, the weather in 
the Atlantic was mild, and the S.S. Texan churned along, doing all 
of ten knots, with no undue worries, as far as I was concerned. She 
was a comfortable old hooker, with good seagoing qualities in her 
class. She was one of the last of the old iron steamers, as steel had 
for many years replaced iron in hull plates in shipbuilding. 

The Chief Officer was the only person who appeared to be wor- 
ried by the weight of his responsibilities. After we were free of the 
main stream of traffic in the western approaches to the English 
Channel, he often joined the seamen on deck, during his watch 
and even sometimes during his watches below in scrubbing the 
decks and sand-and-canvassing the teakwood and polishing the 
brasswork. I must say he had everything spick and span, but his 
energetic example was not followed by the First Officer and my- 
self, as we considered that an equally admirable result could be 
achieved by giving whatever instructions were necessary to the 
efficient boatswain. 

This was my first voyage across the Western Ocean to North 
America. We were seventeen days on the passage. Still very inno- 
cent in the ways of passenger steamers, and of a sociable nature 
(as I hope I still ami) I enjoyed talking to the passengers male 
and female, young and old at meal times and in the mornings 
and evenings before I went on watch at 8 A.M. and 8 P.M, 

Most of our passengers were British owners or managers of 
sugar plantations or businesses in Jamaica, or government officials, 

43 



returning after a holiday. Like nearly all passengers, they were 
eager for information on the working of a ship and on the ways of 
the sea, and considered that a brassbound young officer was the 
very person to impart the knowledge they were so anxious to ob- 
tain. A sweet young planter's daughter on this voyage was the first 
passenger who ever asked me the question that nearly all sweet 
young passengers ask young officers: "Why is a ship called a 'she'?" 

I answered the question to the best of my ability: "A ship is 
called a 'she* because she's sometimes difficult to handle especially 
in confined spaces!" On further reflection, I added, "If she's a 
sailing ship, she's a thing of beauty. She has a waist and a figure- 
head, and ought to be well rigged, with graceful curves and lines. 
She has several companions, and is often attached to a b(u)oy! She 
has ribs and knees, earrings, eyes, stays, bonnets, thimbles, and 
pins. She has a Mate to keep her in trim, but she needs a Master. 
Sailors love ships, and it's love that makes the world go round, so 
that's why a ship is called a 'she'!" 

"How romantic!" the damsel sighed, as the moon rose over the 
Caribbean Sea; but, as I had to go on watch at 8 P.M., there was no 
time to impart further nautical instruction, even to such a keen 
student. She was the first of many passengers, eager for nautical 
knowledge, who brought me to realize that a ship's officer needs 
fenders if he wishes to avoid collisions on deck. 

Fifteen days out from Liverpool, we made our landfall at Turk's 
Island in the Bahamas, and steamed on through the Windward 
Passage (between Haiti and Cuba) to make port at Kingston, 
Jamaica, two days later, in that famous island of rum and pirates, 
the old "Port Royal" of the Spaniards. At this time, Kingston had 
an old-fashioned, ramshackle appearance, two years before it was 
devastated by the terrible earthquake of 1907. 

We lay at the quay at Kingston for a week. All our passengers 
disembarked here, and all the cargo was discharged from the after- 
hold, with Negro labor and our own steam-driven winches, der- 
ricks, and running gear. In its place we took in the very cargo that 
would be expected at Jamaica 5,000 kegs of rum, which filled the 
hold to the deckhead. Some of this was for Liverpool, but most of 

44 



it was to be delivered to the other ports we were bound for, on 
the Caribbean shore and the Gulf of Mexico. It was the best cure 
and preventive then known for Yellow Fever, malaria, cholera, 
and other deadly diseases that raged in those parts of the world at 
that time. 

Being busy on deck in the daytime, I had no chance to go ashore, 
except in the evenings, when a stroll through the colorful streets 
was more interesting than educative. We were warned to keep out 
of the lanes and alleyways, where many a sailor had been knifed 
when he was full of rum, and never seen or heard of again mur- 
dered by robber gangs who took his clothes as well as any money 
or jewelry he carried, and dumped his body in the bay, weighted 
with iron or heavy stones. 

The Negroes and Negresses were dressed in gaudy cotton prints, 
made in Manchester, and usually wore blue or red bandanas, 
spotted with white or yellow, knotted around their heads, in pic- 
turesque contrast with their shining ebony faces. The white resi- 
dents strolled the streets wearing wide-brimmed Panama straw 
hats, with white linen suits, and usually smoking Havana cigars. 
The "tourist industry" at this stage had not been highly developed, 
and there were few attractions for the stranger ashore, in this city 
dedicated to the serious business of manufacturing and exporting 
rum. 

When our valuable cargo was well stowed, we took in mails and 
some passengers for England and the intermediate ports we were 
bound for. The passengers included about thirty Jamaican Ne- 
groes who had been recruited to labor on the building of the 
Panama Canal. They were accommodated in the steerage. 

Steaming southwards, 550 miles across the vivid blue Caribbean 
Sea, we arrived on the third day at the port of Colon, in Limon 
Bay, on the northern shore of the Isthmus of Panama. Colon was 
named in honor of Columbus, who sailed into Limon Bay in 
1502, but the town itself came into existence only in 1850, when it 
was selected as the seaport terminal of the Panama Railroad (com- 
pleted in 1855). 

The Isthmus of Panama, only fifty-one miles wide, connecting 

45 



the continents of North and South America, was for centuries one 
of the worst obstacles to interocean navigation in the world, 
equaled in that respect only by the Isthmus of Suez. The Isthmus 
lies in an east and west direction, washed by the Caribbean Sea 
on the northern side and the Pacific Ocean on the southern side, 
but the canal runs from N.W. to S.E. 

The Spaniards made their settlement at Porto Bello, twenty 
miles to the east of present-day Colon. From there they made a 
track inland, and, on September 25, 1513, Governor Balboa, stand- 
ing "silent upon a peak in Darien" was the first European officially 
to discover the mighty Pacific Ocean. 

Thereafter the Spaniards opened a road across the Isthmus, to 
the port of Panama, on the Pacific shore, and there built and 
equipped ships with which they explored the Pacific coasts of 
South and North America, and eventually far out into the Pacific 
to the Philippine Islands, New Guinea, Australia, Indonesia, and 
China. 

The road from Porto Bello to Panama, crossing the Isthmus, 
was on the main route of trade from Spain to Peru, California, the 
Philippines, and China, but the expense of portage across the 
Isthmus was heavy, as horses, mules, and oxen could not live long 
in that pestilential torrid climate, where the fierce rays of the sun, 
only 9 deg. N. of the equator, charged the air with humidity sucked 
from the sea and from the marshes filled with almost daily down- 
pours of rain. 

Human portage slaves and prisoners was used, but the loss 
of life was terrible, through ravages of Yellow Fever and malaria. 
It was not known then that these diseases were carried by the mos- 
quitoes which bred in the swamps and foraged in clouds of mil- 
lions to suck the blood of human beings or animals at nightfall. 

The search for a sea route from the Atlantic to the Pacific, 
which would enable ships to sail from Europe or Eastern America 
to China and India, led to the discovery of Magellan Strait in 1520, 
and the first passage of the Cape Horn route by the Dutch mer- 
chant adventurers, Schouten and Le Maire, in 1616. 

For three centuries, Cape Horn sailors battled with the fierce 
westerly gales of the High South on the only open water route from 

46 



the Atlantic to the Pacific, to bypass the gigantic obstruction of 
America; yet that immense obstacle to navigation was only fifty- 
one miles wide at the Panama Isthmus, where a canal would save 
thousands of miles of sailing. 

In 1850 the Panama Railroad Company (a U.S.A. concern) 
obtained a concession to build a railroad across the Isthmus, The 
line was built in five years, not from Porto Bello, but from Colon, 
which came into existence expressly as the rail terminus port, to 
Panama. Thereafter, a steamship trade developed to and from the 
terminal ports, with rail transit across the Isthmus, but the cost 
of this rehandling remained heavy. An undersea electric telegraph 
cable was laid from Callao to Panama, connecting by a land line 
to Colon, and thence by undersea cable to Europe. 

In 1879 a French company, headed by Ferdinand de Lesseps 
(engineer of the Suez Canal) obtained a concession to build a 
canal from Colon to Panama. Work went on for twenty years, with 
heavy loss of lives from Yellow Jack, but made unsatisfactory 
progress, as the plan was for a canal at sea level, requiring very 
deep cuts through the spinal range of the Isthmus. 

During the Spanish-American war of 1898, ships of the U.S.A. 
navy and seaborne supplies from the eastern States to the Pacific 
had to use the Cape Horn route or the Strait of Magellan, at a great 
strategical disadvantage. This caused the Government of the 
U.S.A. to intervene in the Panama Canal project. The Americans 
bought the concession from the French company, and negotiated a 
treaty of their own with the Republic of Panama in 1903. Work 
then began on the building of a high-level lock canal, to rise eighty- 
five feet above sea level at its highest point; but Yellow Fever, 
malaria, and cholera again took heavy toll of lives. 

In 1905, about the time the S.S. Texan arrived at Colon, the 
entire labor force had just been diverted from canal construction 
to the task of draining the swamps, and spraying the breeding 
places of mosquitoes with kerosene. This, and the installation of 
sewerage systems at Colon and Panama, enabled the mighty task of 
completing the canal to proceed, and the vitally significant water- 
way was opened in 1914. That event wrote "finis" to the sailing 
ship route around Cape Horn, and for all practical purposes put 

47 



an end to the great days of sail. The "short cut" through Panama, 
from New York to San Francisco, was 5,263 miles, as compared 
with 13,135 miles by the Strait of Magellan (for steamers) or about 
14,000 miles via Cape Horn (for sailing vessels). 

The Panama Canal route was commercially impracticable for 
sailing vessels, which would have to pay towage as well as canal 
dues to pass through; so sail inevitably went into the discard. 
Even though a few valorous old "windbags" lingered on, they 
were only tie ghosts of the great tradition. 

The S.S. Texan berthed at Colon. Our passengers disembarked, 
and our precious cargo of "medicine" was discharged as quickly 
as possible, so that we could clear out from this pestilential hole, 
where Yellow Jack was still taking toll of the heroes who were 
waging war on the mosquitoes. The town of Colon was a miserable 
looking place of wooden frame houses built on an island between 
Port Manzanillo and Limon Bay. It had a population of 3,000, 
mainly Jamaican Negroes and natives of mixed Spanish and In- 
dian and Negro blood. A detachment of American marines and 
engineers were quartered there heroes all, whose names are now 
almost unknown to fame, risking their lives to carry through one 
of the greatest feats of sanitation and engineering in human his- 
tory. The bright green of the jungle came down to the shore in the 
precincts of the port, and we could only hope that our cargo of 
"jungle-juice" would help to allay the miseries of their existence. 

At Colon we took on some passengers, then cleared out and 
headed northerly across the Caribbean Sea to Yucatan Strait (be- 
tween Cuba and the main), then westerly across the Gulf of 
Mexico to Tampico, a run from port to port of some 1,500 miles, 
which took us a week. It was at this time that I made my first ac- 
quaintance with the Gulf Stream, that stupendous current which 
dominates navigation in the North Atlantic with its variations, and 
was to cause me to put on my thinking cap many a time in later 
years. 

It is impossible to say just where the Gulf Stream originates. It 
is part of the great circulatory movement of the whole North At- 

48 



lantic, due probably to the northeast tradewinds and the rotation 
of the earth; but, as the stream circulates around the Gulf of 
Mexico (whence it takes its name) the water is warmed, and flows 
on northwards through the Florida Strait, running at an average 
velocity there of 3% knots; then flows northwards and northeast- 
wards along the shore of the U.S.A., meeting the cold Labrador 
Current off the banks of Newfoundland, then passing eastwards 
with varying effects that reach as far as Greenland, Iceland, the 
British Isles, and Norway. The Gulf Stream causes many things 
in the North Atlantic, including fogs and the melting of icebergs 
a fickle jade that gives transatlantic navigators more worry than 
enough. 

Tampico, in Mexico, was an old Spanish and, before that, Az- 
tec city. It is on the bank of the Panuco River, five miles up- 
stream, and surrounded by lagoons and swamps. In lat. 22 deg. N., 
Tampico is not at hot as Colon, but Yellow Jack had created rav- 
ages here also, as there were few sea breezes to dispense the swarms 
of mosquitoes. 

Our reason for calling at Tampico was to deliver 1,000 kegs of 
Nelson's Blood for the solace of the toilers on the oilfields, some 
fifty miles inland, and to load "case oil" packed in four-gallon 
flat-sided tins, two to a deal case brought to the port by rail from 
the oilfields. We were not allowed ashore, because of the danger 
of Yellow Fever, but swarms of mosquitoes acted as efficient car- 
riers, from ship to shore, or from shore to ship. We took on a few 
passengers also, and, after four or five days, deared out downriver 
and into the pure air and circulatory current of the Gulf. 

Our next destination was New Orleans, a run from port to port 
of 710 miles. There we were to deliver 1,000 kegs of the Jamaica 
cure-all, and load baled cotton for the mills of Manchester. 

Arrived off the mouth of the Mississippi, we dropped anchor at 
the South Pass, in water muddied far out to sea by a flood in the 
mighty river, to await a pilot. 

The Chief Officer, in his immaculate "whites," went forward to 
the fo'c'slehead, to supervize letting go the anchor. I went with 

49 



him, accompanied also by the carpenter and three seamen. The 
anchors had been unlashed on the previous day, and were now 
hanging overside at the bows, shackled to the chain-cables, held in 
position by the friction brakes on the windlass, ready to let go. 

The Captain was on the bridge, and rang the engines to Slow 
and then Stop as we approached the anchorage. A seaman in "the 
chains/' with the hand lead, kept singing out the depths in fath- 
oms. By keeping the lead on the bottom, and noting the trend of 
the line, he could let the Captain know when the ship came to a 
dead stop, or began to drift astern: the critical moment for letting 
go the anchor. 

It happened that one of the lady passengers from Jamaica had 
developed an admiration for the manly qualities of the Chief 
Officer. She took up a position immediately below the bridge, 
where she stood watching her hero with admiration as he pre- 
pared to "drop the killick." As the ship came to a standstill, the 
Captain sang out, "LET GO!" 

At this, the carpenter tried to unscrew the brake on the wind- 
lass, but it had become rusted, and would not budge. Despite 
strenuous efforts by the Chief Officer and the carpenter, the brake 
held fast. 

After a few moments, Captain Lund became exasperated at the 
delay, and made one of the longest speeches of his nautical career. 
"What the hell's the matter forward there?" he sang out, angrily, 
"LET GO THE ANCHOR!" 

This rude remark to her hero was too much for the little lady. 
In a piping voice she sang out, "Don't you do it, Chief!" 

The Captain shot a quick glance at the fair offender, swallowed 
hard, and controlled his feelings admirably. Luckily, at that mo- 
ment, the brake yielded to persuasion, and the anchor went with 
a run, plunging to the bottom and dragging the cable over the 
windlass with a deafening rattle. 

Soon a river pilot came out from Port Eads; and we proceeded 
slowly upriver for 110 miles to New Orleans, with the leadsmen 
chanting the marks most of the way. The pilot informed us that 
Yellow Fever was raging at New Orleans, and panic prevailed 
there, as people were dying at the rate of 200 a day. Among those 

50 



who had died of the fever were the Archbishop and several other 
notabilities. 

In these circumstances we had to proceed to the quarantine sta- 
tion. We dropped anchor there, and everyone on board was inoc- 
ulated. Then we had to remain in quarantine for ten days, to see 
if anyone developed symptoms of the disease. This precaution was 
partly due to the fact that we had come from Colon and Tampico, 
notorious breeding places of Yellow Fever, and partly to protect 
us from infection at New Orleans. 

Our anchorage was in the river, adjacent to miles of mud flats 
from which millions of mosquitoes flew on board every evening, 
making the quarantine ineffectual; but probably the inoculation 
made us immune to their stings. The heat and humidity were very 
oppressive, and the inaction extremely tedious, but at last we were 
allowed to move to a berth at the quay, to discharge our cargo of 
the Jamaica Special, and to load bales of cotton to replace it. 

All on board were warned not to go ashore; but, despite the 
risks, the Third Engineer and I being young and foolish, and 
unwilling to leave the far-famed port of New Orleans without see- 
ing something of its notorious gay life decided to take the 
chance. 

We went ashore one evening, and visited the "Old City'* 
founded by the French in 1718 a most picturesque place, with 
its narrow streets, buildings with beautiful iron-trellised balconies, 
and lively cabarets and "dives." New Orleans was ceded to the 
U.S.A. in 1803 by the Louisiana Purchase; but its population re- 
mained one of the most polyglot of the world, with a preponder- 
ance of French and Italians, and many Negroes and mixed breeds. 
We found that the "gay life" was raging even more furiously than 
usual, as the citizens had evidently decided to have a last fling 
before the Yellow Jack laid them low. 

After a jolly good spree, we returned on board, and awaited with 
some trepidation to see if symptoms of the fever developed; but 
presumably our inoculation was effective, or luck was on our side, 
as we remained in normal health. We were exposed to as much 
danger from mosquitoes on board the ship lying at the wharf as 
we were when promenading the streets nearby. 

51 



After a week, we cast off the moorings and proceeded downriver 
with a pilot, homeward bound. 

Steaming southeastwards for three days across the Gulf of 
Mexico, we rounded Key West at the end of the Florida Reefs, and 
passed through the Florida Strait to head for home, a run of some 
5,000 miles from port to port. 

I felt that I had gained a great deal of practical knowledge in 
the navigation of this colorful and historic part of the world, which 
was all new to me. Many years would go by before I again saw the 
Caribbean Sea and Key West, during the 193945 War, in circum- 
stances which would give me a weighty responsibility; but as Sec- 
ond Officer of the S.S. Texan, away back in 1905, I was carefree, 
or nearly so. 

We arrived back at Liverpool on August 28, 1905, after a voyage 
that had lasted a little over two months. My only worry then was 
whether I was getting my time in for Master. The Marine Super- 
intendent of the Leyland Line assured, me that it would be all 
right, and offered to sign me on for another voyage; but, on the 
principle of always going to the fountainhead of authority if pos- 
sible, when in doubt, I sought and obtained an interview with the 
Examiner of Masters and Mates at the Board of Trade Office in 
Liverpool. 

I explained the case to him. He advised me bluntly to leave the 
Texan and get a real Second Mate's job. "You're only wasting your 
time, 1 ' he said. 

That settled it. I went down to the dock and told the Marine 
Superintendent that I had decided to leave the Texan, and why. 
He was irate. "You've gone and spilled the beans to the Board of 
Trade!" he roared. 

"Well, sir," I said. "The beans were spilled long ago. The B.O.T. 
knows very well that a Second Officer is not a Second Mate, but 
only a Third Mate, in reality. I can't afford to waste my time." 

So ended my career with the Leyland Line, and I was "on the 
beach again" unemployed and hoping for the best. 



52 



CHAPTER FIVE 



In the Doldrums of Unemployment I Decide to 
Go Back to Sail The Barque "Santa" A Nar- 
row Escape I Join the S.S. "Jura" My Third 
Voyage in Steam The Captain's Daughter 
Cape Flyaway Buenos Aires Magellan Strait 
Antofagasta Iquique Pisagua Aground in 
a Fog Cardiff and Home My Friend, Jim 
Watt A Step up the Ladder. 



FOR three weeks I trudged the docks and pestered the clerks 
at the shipping offices in vain! Nobody who owned a steamer 
wanted a young First Mate or Second Mate, when they could get 
older, more experienced men by merely beckoning. The iron 
entered into my soul, and I began to feel that my choice of a career 
as a mercantile marine officer had been a big mistake, as evi- 
dently I had entered an overcrowded profession. 

If anyone had offered me a shore job at the equivalent of six 
pounds a month and keep, I would have "chucked" the sea for- 
ever or was this only a passing mood? At the mature age of 
twenty-two, I almost agreed that my father had been right when 
he had warned me, seven years previously, that there was no se- 
curity in the seafaring life. 

This, too, was only a passing mood. On considering the matter 

53 



further, I decided that the only way to get my time in as First 
Mate or Second Mate would be to go back to sail. After three 
weeks of hope dampened by despair, I now had a hankering for 
sails over my head and another voyage around Cape Horn. I made 
inquiries, and soon heard that J. J. Rae and Son, shipowners, 
needed a First Mate for their barque Santa, lying in the Wapping 
Dock, loading general merchandise for Valparaiso. 

That would mean a westward passage, beating to windward, 
around Cape Horn, and all the hard work and discomforts of that 
life, which I could envisage only too well; but, between the devil 
and the deep blue sea, I preferred the sea. I therefore called on 
Mr. Rae and offered ray services. He offered me a job as First 
Mate at six pounds ten shillings a month, and my fate was sealed. 

But not entirely! Like all owners of sailing vessels, Mr. Rae 
had to be frugal to make ends meet. Instead of signing me on, 
there and then, he decided to defer that formality until the barque 
was ready to sail, which would be in three weeks. In the meantime 
he suggested that I should go on board daily, to supervise receiving 
the cargo, as Acting Mate, at thirty shillings a~week. 

The economy he would effect by this ruse, in the accounts of 
the voyage, would amount to only a few shillings; but every shill- 
ing counted, as all wise shipowners knew. I resented this meanness, 
as it appeared to me, but in the end his failure to sign me on 
prematurely from his point of view proved to be another of 
those turns of the wheel of fate which determine a young man's 
destiny; for, if I had gone to sea again, in sail, as a First Mate, on 
a voyage of up to two years, I might never have returned to steam. 

But who can anticipate the chances, big or little, which make 
or mar us? Certainly not a sailor "on the beach," with the soles of 
his boots wearing thinl He must take what offers, or starve. I 
therefore went down to the Wapping Dock, at 7 A.M. on a Monday 
in mid-September (1905) to begin work. 

The Santa was a trim barque of 800 tons, but in a very grimy 
condition. All hands, including the Captain, had been paid off at 
the end of the previous voyage, and only a watchman was living on 
board. Her yards were bare, her paintwork and decks covered in 

54 



city soot, her sides mottled with rust, and she looked altogether 
forsaken and forlorn. 

At a glance I saw that plenty of elbow grease would be required 
to get her ready for sea, and that a First Mate's talents would need 
to be exercised to the utmost to work her to windward round the 
Horn; but I was in the mood for work. 

Mr. Rae arrived on his bicycle soon after 7 A.M., and explained 
the situation to me. "It's damned hard nowadays," he complained, 
"to pick up a general cargo here for Valpol The steamers are 
taking away our trade to the West Coast, going through Magellan 
Strait. Why couldn't they leave the West Coast alone? There's 
plenty of other places they can go to. I've been trying for weeks 
to get a full cargo for this barque, but I've got to cut freights to 
compete with those dirty, smoking steamers. I wish I'd sent her 
to Cardiff to load coal, but nowadays the steamers are even carry- 
ing coal to the West Coast." 

"Mark my words," he continued, grumpily, "in a few years 
there won't be a stitch of sail left under the British flag, and Old 
England will be beggared. All our wealth came from sail, didn't 
it? Yes, and yet they throw it away. Well, young man, this is what 
I want you to do. Stand by and receive the cargo I've managed to 
obtain, which the merchants will be delivering this week and next 
week. It will come in lorry loads, from a dozen different consignors. 
All you have to do is take delivery of it, check the packages and 
sign for them, and direct the carriers to stow it in the dockside 
warehouse, ready for loading. When we have enough for a full 
cargo, I'll get stevedores to load her, and riggers to bend the sails, 
and then I'll sign you on as First Mate for the voyage, after I've 
engaged a Master and made all the other arrangements/' 

He rode away on his bicycle, and I was left alone with my 
thoughts for an hour or two, until the first lorry load of cargo ar- 
rived. This was duly stowed in the warehouse, safe from weather 
and theft. Then I had to wait another hour or so, with nothing to 
do but sit and think, until another lorry arrived. So it continued 
for a fortnight, with nobody in a hurry, as the cargo steadily ac- 
cumulated. In this situation I was neither a sailor nor a land- 
lubber. My work was no more than that of a tally clerk. 

55 



On Saturday mornings, Mr. Rae paid me my thirty shillings; 
but, on the second Saturday, he said that he hoped it would be 
possible to load the barque and clear her out in the following 
week. 

That evening, while sampling some of Cain's brew in a pub 
frequented by shipping men, I happened to hear that a Second 
Mate was wanted in a steamer owned by Japp and Kirby, of Chapel 
Street. She was the S.S. ]ura, a cargo vessel trading to South 
America. 

Throughout Sunday I tussled with my conscience, wondering 
if I was morally, though not legally, bound to give Mr. Rae notice 
before applying to Japp and Kirby for the job in the Jura. 

I put the point to my father, who expressed the opinion that it 
would serve Mr. Rae right if I left him without notice, since he 
had engaged me only on a casual basis, instead of signing me on in 
proper form. That settled the moral and legal point, but there 
was still a practical point. 

If I went looking for the job in the Jura on Monday morning, 
and failed to get it, Mr. Rae might also sack me from the Santa for 
failing to turn up for work at the dock at seven o'clock that morn- 
ing. I would therefore be "on the beach" again, but this was a risk 
I decided to take. It was a crucial decision for me. 

Before Japp and Kirby's office opened at 9 A.M., I was standing 
at the door, in company with an older man, obviously a seafarer, 
who arrived at the same time as I. 

My heart sank when I saw him, as I supposed he was my rival for 
the Second Mate's job, and would probably be given the pref- 
erence, because of his greater experience and poise. He chatted 
with me affably, without disclosing his identity, and then asked 
me if I was intending to apply for the position of Second Mate in 
the Jura. 

"Yes," I said. "Are you applying for it too?" 

He threw back his head and laughed. "Do I look like a Second 
Mate?" he asked. "As a matter of fact, I'm the Master of the Jura!" 

At this moment, a clerk unbolted the door, and said to him, 
"Good morning, Captain!" 

I stood aside as the Captain entered. He beckoned to me, and 

56 



we sat on a bench in the waiting room, while he asked me my 
qualifications. He was Captain Raymond Parker, a Nova Scotian 
and an old sailing ship man. 

After a few questions, he said, "You'll do. You can start straight 
away, at seven pounds a mouth, and supply your own mattress and 
bedding. We're sailing today at 3 P.M., bound for Greenock to load 
whisky, then to Newport for coal, for Buenos Aires. Be on board 
at eleven o'clock!" 

Having barely two hours to get ready, I hurried home, arriving 
there at 10 A.M., to find that Mr. Rae had just been on his bicycle, 
looking for me, and wanting to know why I hadn't turned up for 
work. My mother, in her candid way, had told him that I had 
gone looking for a better job. At this he rode away in a huff. 

As there was no time for me to see Mr. Rae and explain matters 
to him, I wrote and posted a letter to him, apologizing for any 
inconvenience I may have caused him. I then, with my fond 
mother's help, hurriedly packed my sea chest and sea bag, rolled up 
a mattress, pillow, blankets, and sheets, and, engaging a growler 
cab, arrived on board the Jura in good time. 

So began my third voyage in steam. At last I had what I needed, 
a chance to get my time in for the Master Mariner's Examination, 
by oceangoing service as a bona fide Second Mate in a steamer; 
but, though I felt some twinges of conscience at chucking the 
Santa, I knew that Mr. Rae would soon fill the vacancy, from the 
many well-qualified sailing ship officers on the beach in Liverpool 
at that time. As far as I was concerned, that sudden change of 
course in my career was decisive. I had finally, and perhaps provi- 
dentially escaped from the hardships and the allure of life under 



sail 



The S.S. Jura was a new vessel, launched in 1904 (one year 
before I joined her), from the shipyards of W. Pickersgill and Sons, 
Sunderland. She was a steel-hulled, joggle-plated, single-screw 
cargo carrying steamer of 3,492 tons gross; 361 feet long, 46 feet 
beam, 17i/ 2 feet depth, with the "three island" profile of raised 



forecastlehead, midship house, and poop, and two welldecks, each 
with two hatchways. 

She was a well-found vessel of her class, with a triple expansion 
engine, and a speed of ten knots. She did not carry passengers, and 
was in service as a collier and general cargo carrier to South Amer- 
ican ports. The accommodation for her complement under the 
fo'c'slehead and the poop and in the midship house was ample 
but skimpy in its furnishings. The bridge deck was 198 feet long, 
the poop 31 feet and the fo'c'sle 38 feet. She could carry 4,000 
tons of cargo. 

Everything was shipshape and Bristol fashion, and she had 
steam up and was almost ready to clear out when I went on board 
at 11 A.M., on October 3, 1905. The Mate was James Watt, a 
young and keen man with exceptional personal contacts in the 
nautical world. His uncle was Marine Superintendent of Japp 
and Kirby. He told me this, and added that his father was Com- 
modore of the Cunard Line and Master of the crack transatlantic 
twin-screw liner, RM.S. Campania! 

With such examples to inspire and guide him, Jim Watt had 
excellent prospects of advancement in the nautical world of keen 
competition; but he was also a fine seaman, in his own ability, and 
an efficient officer and jolly companion. 

I was duly signed on as Second Mate. The Third Mate was Nils 
Askeland, a blond Norwegian, aged thirty, who had served his 
time in sail, and held a Norwegian Mate's ticket. He was a seaman 
as good as they're made, who had looked for a job in a British ship 
to improve his knowledge o the English language. The Engineers 
Chief, Second, Third, and Fourth were Scots, as usual, and 
all pleasant fellows. We looked forward to an agreeable voyage 
in this new and well-found ship, with no passengers to bother us. 

Some general cargo had been loaded at Liverpool, but, though 
lightly loaded, we did not need ballasting for the short coastal 
run of some 200 miles northwards, in narrow waters and fine 
weather, to Greenock, at the mouth of the Clyde. There we loaded 
1,000 cases of whisky and some heavy cases of agricultural ma- 
chinery for Buenos Aires. This cargo was stowed in the two holds 
evenly, but might need some restowing at our next port, Newport 

58 



in Monmouthshire, South Wales, where we were to proceed to load 
coal. 

Handling cargo was almost a pleasure with our steam winches 
and derricks. After a stay of two days at Greenock, we cleared out, 
and in two days more arrived at Newport, in the busy Bristol 
Channel my first visit to that historic waterway, which in earlier 
days was Britain's main gate to the Western Ocean. 

Here we loaded 3,000 tons of best quality South Wales coal 
for the Argentinian railways a valuable cargo indeed of Black 
Diamonds, even if everything was smothered in black dust while 
we loaded it; but that scarcely mattered, as there were no pas- 
sengers. 

Then came a surprise, as one day a lorry arrived alongside, with 
a small upright piano on it, and Captain Parker personally su- 
perintended hoisting it inboard, and stowing it, lashed to the bulk- 
head, in the dining-saloon. 

Watt, Askeland, and I were puzzled, wondering what was the 
purpose of a piano in a collier, but I was secretly pleased, as among 
my underdeveloped talents was the ability to play a piano a 
very little, "by ear," mainly. I thought I might be able to have a 
go at it sometimes, to relieve the tedium of the voyage. 

Then Captain Parker explained: "This is for my daughter, 
Vera, to practice on. Shell be coming with us as a passenger!" 

That afternoon the Captain's daughter came on board with her 
luggage. She would be the only female in the ship. She was a deli- 
cate looking slip of a girl, eighteen years of age, but full of self- 
confidence, and well aware of her privileged position, which 
would compel the whole ship's company of twenty-five strong 
men to mind their language and behavior generally in the pres- 
ence of a lady. What a ruddy nuisance! 

From Newport we had a short run along the coast, past Cardiff, 
to Barry Dock, where we took in 500 tons of anthracite for a special 
order in Buenos Aires, and filled our bunkers with steaming coal 
and our tanks with fresh water for the voyage. The ship was now 
loaded to the Plimsoll mark and ready to clear out for foreign 
parts. 

59 



Wisps of fog obscured visibility in the Bristol Channel, a portent 
of the British winter from which we were escaping to the blue skies 
and bright sunshine of the Southern Hemisphere. Off Lundy 
Island, the pilot left us, and Captain Parker set course for Buenos 
Aires. 

The three Mates stood watch four hours on and eight off. My 
watches were from 12 midnight to 4 A.M., and from 12 noon to 4 
P.M. The Mate relieved me from 4 to 8, and the Third Mate fol- 
lowed him from 8 to 12. 

The officers' cabins were under the bridge, next to the saloon. 
Before many days had gone by, all three of us were suffering from 
insomnia in our watches below, due to Vera's love of music, which 
led her to practice scales and exercises on the piano for hours on 
end, whenever she felt inclined. This often happened to be when 
one or another of the Mates below was dropping off to well-earned 
and needed slumber. 

Though she looked so delicate, Vera had the ability to thump 
the piano and I mean thump like a blacksmith wielding a ham- 
mer on an anvil, and to strike more wrong notes than right ones. 
The Captain was enchanted by his daughter's musical prowess, 
and one day he said proudly to the Mate, "What do you think of 
Vera's execution?" 

"I would heartily approve of it," said the Mate. 

Soon we were in the Fine Weather Latitudes, and churning 
along beneath a sunny sky, far from land and from the busy lanes 
of shipping traffic, sighting only an occasional steamer or sailing 
vessel, with wide sea room. In these conditions the officers of the 
watches, during daylight hours, could safely leave the bridge for 
awhile and potter around on deck, to vary the monotony with 
some sailorizing, such as splicing wires, sewing canvas, chipping 
iron rust, or freshening up paintwork, and going up to the bridge 
only occasionally. The man at the wheel would keep a lookout 
and blow a whistle if he sighted anything. 

Captain Parker spent much of his time in daylight hours pacing 
to and fro on the bridge, checking the compass course and the 

60 



ship's position by the readings of the Patent Log at hourly inter- 
vals. He was therefore pleased to see the Mates working with the 
seamen on deck, as long as the weather was clear. 

Vera considered that she had a right to go up to the bridge when- 
ever she felt inclined to talk to her Daddy. This was a serious 
breach of rules, but the Captain was indulgent, and gave her the 
run of the ship. She treated the Mates with disdain, considering 
that we were beneath the notice of such a privileged and impor- 
tant person as the Captain's daughter. 

In the mornings, we took sights for longitude, and at noon for 
latitude, and handed our calculation of the noon position to the 
Captain each day when he pricked her off on the chart. 

Being an old sailing ship man, a Nova Scotian, and a Blue Nose, 
the Captain who had obtained his Master's certificate perhaps 
thirty years previously had old-fashioned ideas. He mistrusted 
the rating of the chronometers, and told us bluntly that he had 
no objection to our taking sights but he had no faith in our calcu- 
lations, as far as longitude was concerned. He said that latitude 
was his main stay, as nothing could go wrong with that; but for 
longitude he would stick to his own dead reckoning based on 
the compass course and the Patent Log. 

We of the younger generation, while aware that our calculations 
depended on the accuracy of the chronometer, were convinced that 
our sights were reasonably good. The ship did not have wireless, 
and consequently we could not detect changes of rate by means 
of wireless time-signals; but she carried three chronometers, so 
that one could be checked against the others, and any change of 
rate detected. These instruments were always taken, in home ports, 
to the nautical opticians for checking and correction, and a daily 
rate of each supplied. Consequently, the Mate and I smiled to our- 
selves when the Old Man told us that he thought our longitude 
was "all wrong." 

One day at noon, when, according to our calculations, we were 
300 miles from the entrance to the River Plate, the Captain com- 
mented, "You might be right, and you might be wrong, but keep 
a sharp lookout all the same!" 

61 



The Third Mate took over the watch on the bridge from eight 
to noon, while the Mate and I went below, but the Captain re- 
mained on the bridge. 

Vera mercilessly thumped the piano which had now become 
hopelessly out of tune through the slackening of its strings in 
the Tropics while the Mate and I tried to rest in our cabins. 

As I was to go on watch at noon, I did not undress, but tried 
to study a little for my examination. Presently, thank heavens, 
Vera stopped strumming, and went up on the bridge with Daddy. 
Soon afterwards the Captain raised a great shout that sent me 
hurrying to the bridge. "There!" he sang out to me. "You put us 
300 miles from land, but there's the land on the starboard bow, 
only twenty miles distant! A fine bunch of navigators you arel" 

These remarks took me flat aback. I glanced at Askeland, who 
was standing silent and red-faced, but his left eyelid flickered in 
a wink which put me on guard. The helmsman stood like a graven 
image, staring impassively ahead. We all knew better than to con- 
tradict the Captain. The dark line on the horizon to the south- 
westward certainly looked like land, but I believed it to be a cloud- 
bank. To add to my confusion Vera excitedly squealed, "Oh, yes, 
Daddy, it's the land! I can see palm trees growing on it!" 

I had a look through the telescope, and studied the cloudbank 
for such it was, I felt sure. A feeling of pity the compassion of 
the young for the old swept over me. I realized that the Captain, 
grand old seaman that he was, was afflicted with failing eyesight, 
and did not know it, or could not admit it. 

I longed to say to Vera, "Those palm trees are growing on Cape 
Flyaway," but I curbed my tongue, and went below to arouse the 
Mate from his blissful slumbers. I explained the situation to him, 
as I understood it. He swore like a trooper, and hurriedly dressed; 
but, when he came on the bridge, Cape Flyaway was already dis- 
persing, and the Captain and his daughter had gone below for 
tea. 

Twenty-four hours later, we made a perfect landfall off the en- 
trance to the River Plate, and the Captain made no further scath- 
ing comments on our navigation on that voyage. 

62 



We lay at Buenos Aires (or "B. A," as seamen called it) for a 
fortnight, discharging cargo. Vera went ashore to stay with the 
ship's agent and his wife and family, while the ship in her absence 
was covered in coal dust and profanity. We then took in ballast, 
as we had orders to proceed by the Strait of Magellan to the West 
Coast, to load nitrates. 

Askeland and I went ashore together occasionally, to enjoy the 
night life of B. A., to the extent of our limited cash resources. 
When the time came to get up steam for our departure, three coal 
trimmers and two stokers all Liverpool Irishmen were missing. 
They had gone on the booze and had been shanghaied into other 
ships. 

After a few hours delay, our agent completed negotiations with 
a crimp to deliver five substitutes on board, at twenty dollars a 
head these being also Liverpool Irishmen who had been shang- 
haied from some other ship. So the old game was still going on. 
Our new men, after the booze had been sweated out of them in a 
few watches down below, were as handy at their work as those 
we had lost. 

Steaming southwards along the coast of Argentina, we arrived 
in five days off Cape Virgins, the eastern entrance to Magellan 
Strait, 1,250 miles from B. A. 

There were no pilots. We had to find our way through the Nar- 
rows to the port of Punta Arenas (Sandy Point), a Chilean town 
100 miles inland from Cape Virgins. There we dropped anchor 
overnight, as we needed daylight to navigate the western part of 
the passage, another 200 miles from Punta Arenas to the Pacific 
Ocean. 

This was all new ground to me. Magellan Strait is one of the 
most remarkable waterways in the world, its channel landlocked 
by mountains and cliffs of reddish rock, winding in and out like 
a fjord at some places several miles wide and at others very nar- 
row and dangerous. The Strait is entirely within the territory of 
Chile, even at its eastern entrance. It separates the large and al- 
most uninhabited island of Tierra del Fuego from the main: and 
to the south of Tierra del Fuego is Cape Horn, on a small island. 

Great was the courage of Magellan and his men, in 1520, when 

63 



they sailed in their small ships into this fearsome defile, which 
must have seemed to them like the Mouth of Hell, leading to the 
unknown; and great too was their endurance, and the endurance 
of seamen for a century after them, who could work through the 
strait only by scouting ahead with the ships' boats for 300 miles, 
sounding all the way, and dropping the anchor at nightfall among 
the cliffs and peaks probably inhabited by demons: yet this was 
the only seaway, known to the valiant Spaniards of that great 
period in Spanish history, leading to the golden land of the Incas, 
Peru, and beyond to the Philippines. 

Even when the Cape Horn route was discovered by the Dutch- 
men, Schouten and Le Maire, in 1616, its howling westerly gales 
made the passage to the westward around the Horn hazardous 
and sometimes impossible, so that Magellan Strait continued to 
be used, at least by small sailing vessels, and then came increasingly 
into use again after the invention and development of steam 
propulsion. 

Punta Arenas, on the northern side of the Strait, was a small 
Chilean town with some export trade in cattle and hides, but 
inhabited mainly by Indians. It was a "free port," with no customs 
dues or harbor dues. 

Next day we reached Indian Inlet, and lay at anchor a cable's 
length from a cliff, on the face of which were painted in large 
letters the names of many ships which had passed through the 
Strait, some of the names in seemingly inaccessible places. 

Not to be outdone, Nils Askeland got a pot of paint and a brush, 
and rowed in the ship's dinghy to the foot of the cliff. As he had 
been reared on the shore of a Norwegian fjord, he understood the 
art of rock climbing. He crawled up the cliff like a fly on a wall, 
pained the name JURA higher than any other while we watched 
him with anxiety and admiration then safely descended and 
rowed back to the ship, grinning with the modest pride of a hero. 

On the third day we continued the westward passage, steaming 
at full speed, thanks to good Admiralty charts, and arrived at 
nightfall off Cape Pillar, at the western side of the Strait. From 
there we steamed full ahead into a howling westerly gale which 
whipped the waters of the misnamed Pacific Ocean into a furious 

64 



contrast with the placid, glassy surface of the Strait through which 
we had threaded our way. 

If ever I had doubted the superiority of steam over sail, these 
doubts were ended that night, as the Jura steamed into the eye 
of the gale, thrusting into the combers which broke and foamed 
along her sides, flooding the forward welldedc, and flinging icy 
spume and spray high over the bridge, as we clawed off the land 
in a manner which would have been utterly impossible under 
sail that is, on a due westerly course in a westerly gale. 

Yet the merits of our headway were not those of seamanship, 
but of engineering. The men who had built the ship and her 
engines, and the greasers, stokers, and trimmers down below, sweat- 
ing as they fed her furnaces with coal, provided the motive power, 
as the ship fought the gale and drew steadily away from the dread- 
ful ironbound Patagonian coast of Chile which lay astern to our 
lee. 

At dawn we were well to seaward, and hove to for a few hours, 
with the screw turning slowly, until the gale blew itself out. Then 
we headed northwards, taking the rollers abeam, as the storm 
gradually abated. 

We steamed full ahead, never more than from 50 to 100 miles 
offshore, into steadily moderating weather, and then into the 
fine weather, light airs, and quiet seas beneath the brilliant blue 
and cloudless skies northwards of Valparaiso. The steaming dis- 
tance from Cape Pillar to our first port of destination, Antof agasta, 
was some 1,600 miles, which took us only six days. 

As the weather cleared, Vera resumed her piano thumping, 
which now became intolerable, even to her father, as the piano 
was so painfully out of tune. He had disregarded the opportunity 
of having it tuned in B. A., and now, to my surprise, asked me if 
I knew anything about tuning pianos. I told him that I had seen 
it done, and understood the principles, or thought that I did, and 
that I would be willing to try to tune it. 

"Ah, well," said the Captain, "you probably couldn't make it 
any worse than it is, so do your best!" 

Vera hovered around anxiously as I began work, and frequently 
asked me if I was sure of what I was doing. I told her I was doing 

65 



my best, as the Captain ordered, but, having no tuning fork, no 
tools except a shifting spanner borrowed from the Second Engi- 
neer, and no experience as a piano tuner, I succeeded only in 
making the instrument much worse than it had been before I 
touched it. This was taking a big chance, but even Vera knew 
that it was so hopelessly out of tune as to be unplayable. 

She valiantly tried a few times to play it, but the Captain then 
dosed it, and locked it, and pocketed the key, saying to me as 
he did so, "I've an idea you ruined it on purposel" 

Perhaps he wasn't far wrong . . . 

After we had passed the latitude of Talcahuana, and then Val- 
paraiso, we sighted almost every day one or more windjammers, 
sailing slowly northwards in the light airs and drifting with the 
current along the shore. We overtook them, and exchanged sig- 
nals of identification. Some were arriving from Australia with 
coal, or in ballast, after running the easting down; others were 
from Europe with coal or general merchandise, into fine weather 
at last after taking a hammering for weeks beating to the west- 
ward around Cape Horn. These were nearly all bound for West 
Coast ports to pick up cargoes of nitrates. They included some 
stylish Germans of the famous "P" line. Several we saw were 
American "Down Easters," the flying Cape Homers, wooden 
built, with skysails above the royals, sailing from the Eastern 
States of the U.S.A. to San Francisco, Portland (Oregon), Seattle, 
or Hawaii, for cargoes of wheat, lumber or sugar. 

The West Coast of South America was the last great rendezvous 
of sail in those dying days of the windjammers. There they grace- 
fully fluttered their white wings in their final, ineffectual defiance 
of tramp steamers such as the Jura which were now beginning 
to take even the coal trade and the nitrate trade away from them, 
to starve them to death. 

I remembered the lamentations of Mr. Rae, and wondered 
where his barque Santa might now be. Tossing about, hove to off 
the Horn, I supposed, battling against the westerlies, with her 
decks flooded and her crew half starved, but undaunted. But for 
a chance remark heard in a pub, I would have been in the thick 
of her ordeals at that moment. My thoughts went out to her, and 

66 



I felt like the humble person who said of the unredeemed sinner: 
There, but for the Grace of God, go I . . , 

A dozen sailing vessels were at anchor in the Bay of Antof agasta 
when we arrived. Some had been there for weeks, even months, 
waiting for cargoes of nitrate. We anchored half a mile offshore, 
and almost immediately our agent came on board. He had been 
informed by telegram from B. A. of the exact date of our expected 
arrival. Such a prediction was almost impossible for sailing ves- 
sels, which made port as and when they could. 

The agent had succeeded in obtaining 1,000 tons of nitrate for 
us, from the mines in the interior. This was in transit and ex- 
pected within a week. As this would not be a full cargo, he had 
telegraphed to other nitrate ports, and reserved 1,000 tons at 
Iquique, and 1,000 tons at Pisagua, to be held for our arrival on 
dates which could be exactly predicted. 

What hope had the old windjammers against such competition? 
We were taking the bread out of their mouths, but there is no 
sentiment in business. 

While we lay at anchor for a week, the crew were kept busy, 
painting round the deck and topsides, in the perpetual war 
against rust. The bottoms of steamers were seldom fouled with 
seagrass and barnacles, as were the bottoms of sailing vessels. The 
vibration shook most of these growths off, and steamers seldom lay 
for lengthy periods at anchor, as the windjammers usually did, 
waiting for charters or cargoes. Too much capital was tied up in 
steamers for them to be left lying idle, and the steamship compa- 
nies generally had better shore organizations for collecting and 
handling cargoes than the sailing ship owners had. 

Captain Parker invited several of the Masters of the wind- 
jammers on board the Jura some of them old shipmates or cro- 
nies of his and entertained them suitably. They came off in their 
gigs, rowed by their apprentices, in traditional style, and we did 
not forget the hungry days of our own apprenticeship. The other 
two mates and I got some cakes, sweet biscuits, tinned fruit, and 
other luxuries from the steward and handed them to the boys, 
who zestfully polished them off then and there. 

67 



Our cargo of bagged nitrates was brought out from the shore in 
lighters, and hoisted by the steam winches into the holds; but, in 
accordance with West Coast traditions, only one stevedore went 
down below into each hold to stow the bags. These men were of 
extra strong physique, and acknowledged experts at stowing ni- 
trates, besides being apparently immune to the fumes of the 
nitrate which gave ordinary mortals a headache if breathed in 
for too long. 

It was fascinating to watch the stevedore shouldering a bag of 
nitrate from the sling, and dumping it exactly where it should lie, 
to make a stack which would be immovable in the heaviest 
weather. The weight of the nitrates was such that a full cargo 
occupied only part of the space in a vessel's hold', or holds; but it 
lay so inertly that no "shifting boards," or lashings, or tommings 
were necessary. 

From Antofogasta we steamed northwards some 250 miles to 
Iquique, the principal nitrate port of the West Coast, where we 
celebrated Christmas Day of 1905, and New Year's Day of 1906, 
in shitanering hot weather, and loaded some more nitrate. There 
were not less than twenty windjammers in this port, some of them 
having arrived months previously after a terrible hammering in 
the winter gales off Cape Horn, which in July, August, and Sep- 
tember of 1905, were the worst recorded in history. The town of 
Iquique had few attractions to offer, but the celebrations in the 
ships -were lively, with singing of chanties, ringing of bells, and 
firing of rockets to accompany the splicing of the main brace. 

Our Captain had a coop of a dozen hens, which he had taken 
on board at Newport for the purpose chiefly of supplying himself 
and Vera with newlaid eggs. They had performed this duty fairly 
well throughout the voyage, being kept well fed with wheat. On 
fine days and in port they were allowed out for exercise on the 
afterdeck for short periods, and had come to no harm. But a bag 
of nitrate burst on deck when being handled inboard at Iquique, 
and some of the grains of saltpeter were spilled around the hatch. 
These lay disregarded until the hens discovered them, and began 
pecking at them eagerly, apparently considering them grit for 
their gizzards. 

68 



Next morning all the hens were dead. Poor Vera! Life at sea was 
one thing after another, for her. 

From Iquique we steamed northwards forty miles to Pisagua, 
another nitrate port with an open bay, in which several wind- 
jammers were at anchor, in the deep water. We too anchored, and, 
after a week's delay began loading from the lighters, all the work 
being done by shore labor, with the aid of our steam winches. 

When loading was completed, we hove up the anchor with the 
steam-driven windlass, and steamed out of the bay. Just that! No 
rousing send-off; no trudging for hours around the capstan; no 
singing of the full-throated shanty chorus of "Rolling Home"; 
no running aloft to shake out sail; no pully-hauly to hoist the 
sails smartly . . . 

Just crisp orders from the bridge "Heave away, Mister 
Mate . . /'and, later, "Full ahead!" 

And we were homeward bound. 

There was one problem in steamers which windjammers did not 
have to worry about bunker coal and with this was an allied 
problem of carrying enough fresh water for the boilers as well as 
for the needs of the ship's complement. 

Our bunkers and tanks had been filled when we left Buenos 
Aires, but we had to take in both coal and water on the West 
Coast for the homeward run. This we did at Pisagua, the coal 
being obtainable there from a stack on shore brought from Aus- 
tralia in windjammers, which thus served a vital need of the 
steamers ousting them from the world's trade routes. 

Bunker coal was high priced on the West Coast, but, even with 
full bunkers and tanks, we did not have enough coal and fresh 
water to carry us from Pisagua, via Magellan Strait, to our destina- 
tion port, Hamburg, a run of some 10,000 miles. 

A windjammer could sail 20,000 miles, if necessary, without 
putting in to an intermediate port. She could keep the seas as 
long as she had food and drinking water and limejuice to pre- 
vent scurvy; but an average steamer's limit of range, without re- 

69 



plenishments of bunker coal and boiler water, was from 5,000 to 
6,000 miles. 

We took in coal and water on our homeward run at Punta 
Arenas, but even then we had to put in to Las Palmas, in the 
Canary Islands, for replenishments to carry us to Hamburg. 

Windjammers were slower, but in proportion to tonnage, both 
their working expenses per ton mile of cargo and the capital in- 
vestment in them were much smaller than in steamers. The twen- 
tieth century was the Age of Machinery, and of Speed at Any 
Price. Those factors wrote finis to the Days of Sail . . . 

We arrived at Hamburg in mid-March, 1906, and began to dis- 
charge immediately. The Captain's wife was on the quay to greet 
him and her long-lost daughter, who had benefited greatly in 
health by her prolonged pleasure cruise in summer climes. 

Mrs. Parker and Vera went home by train and channel steamer. 
We didn't miss Vera! She had a refining influence on our rough 
manners throughout the voyage, but we didn't go to sea to be re- 
fined. 

Our orders at Hamburg were to proceed from there in ballast 
to Cardiff to load coal. When we cleared the Mouth of the Elbe, 
the sea was dead calm, and a thick fog was closing in. "A nice 
kettle of fish!" the Captain growled. We got a bearing on Schar- 
horn, then proceeded on our compass course, going slow, with 
extra lookouts and our steam whistle continually blaring its warn- 
ing message, and visibility at less than fifty yards. 

It was an eerie and unnerving experience my first time on the 
bridge of a steamer in a peasoup fog, and that in the North Sea, 
where hundreds of other vessels, great and small, in steam and in 
sail, were crawling and feeling their way, wailing like lost souls. 
We thought, or hoped, that the fog would soon lift; but, instead, 
it thickened. 

The Captain now developed superhuman powers of endurance. 
He remained on the bridge almost continuously and did not take 
off his clothes and boots, or lie down, for two days of intense 
alertness and anxiety. The Mates continued to work three watches, 

70 



but we never undressed, and lay on our bunks in our watches 
below for only fitful snatches of sleep. 

On the second night out, as we were now working two watches, 
I finished my watch on the bridge at 8 P.M. and went below, re- 
lieved by the Mate. I was feeling very uneasy, as I knew that the 
Captain and the Mate were doubtful of our position. Just as I 
was dozing off, the ship struck something with a dull thud, then 
dragged heavily over it in a series of bumps. I jumped out at 
once and sprang up to the bridge. The engines were already 
stopped. 

"Get a handline and sound all round!" the Captain sang out to 
me. We could hear the deep-toned fog signal of a lightship, seem- 
ingly far off. Soundings showed that the Jura was in seven fathoms 
all round. I reported the soundings as I made them. We had come 
to a standstill. 

"Let go the anchor!" the Captain sang out. I ran forward with 
Askeland and two seamen, and we dropped the killick. I then hur- 
ried to the bridge with Askeland for further orders. The Chief 
Engineer was already conferring with the Captain and the Mate. 
"I think she scraped over a sandbank and has freed herself," said 
the Captain. "Tell Chips to take soundings in the bilges and see 
if she's sprung a leak." 

The carpenter attended to this. "By all that's holy," the Cap- 
tain vowed, "I won't move her from here till this blasted fog lifts, 
if we have to stay here till doomsday. If we haven't scraped a hole 
in her bottom, the Saints are on our side." 

Presently the carpenter reported that there were no signs of a 
leak. "Good!" said the Captain. "But here we are and here we'll 
stay!" 

Everyone agreed heartily. At 7 A.M., getting daylight, the fog 
cleared a little, and we saw several fishing smacks anchored half a 
mile away. I went over to them in the dinghy. They were French, 
with not a word of English among them. They appeared suspicious 
of me, thinking that I might have something to do with the Gov- 
ernment or the Fisheries Department. I knew no French worth 
mentioning, but I waved to them in friendly greeting and sang 

71 



out "Bonjourl" which was almost the only French word I could 
think of. 

I ranged alongside the nearest smack, made the dinghy fast, 
and clambered aboard. Putting on a look of the utmost bewilder- 
ment, I pointed to the Jura, shook my head in a puzzled fashion, 
shrugged my shoulders, pointed in the direction of the distant fog 
signal, looked up to heaven, shrugged my shoulders again, and 
kept on saying "Where? Where? 11 

This mime proved effective, as the skipper produced a chart of 
that region of the North Sea. It was the dirtiest chart I have even 
seen, creased, smudged, and almost illegible. With a horny thumb 
he pointed to a spot on the chart, which, with some peering, I 
was able to identify as the West Hinder Light Vessel. Then with 
much volubility in French and pointing to the chart, he conveyed 
to me the exact position of our ship, and the direction in which 
we should steer to be clear of any more shoals. 

I thanked him, by saying many times, "Merci, beaucoup!" which 
I suddenly remembered. 

Then I pulled back to the Jura in the dinghy, but by the time I 
got back on board, a bleary sun was beginning to peer through the 
thinning fog, and, half an hour later, we got under way in full 
visibility, and reached Cardiff without further incident. 

We berthed at Cardiff on April 2, 1906, after a voyage that had 
lasted six months since our departure from Liverpool. A diver 
went down to examine the bottom, rudder and propeller, but he 
found no damage. 

On this voyage I had become very friendly with the First Mate, 
Jim Watt. When the Jura berthed at Cardiff we were given home 
leave, and traveled up together by train to Liverpool. On the way 
there, Jim surprised me a little by saying that he would speak to 
his uncle, the Marine Superintendent of Japp and Kirby, to see if 
he could get a job for me as First Mate. 

Not being fully aware of the importance of "knowing somebody 
who knows somebody," I thanked him, but did not seriously ex- 
pect anything to come of his offer. 

A few days after I arrived home, I received a letter from Japp 

72 



and Kirby, informing me that I had been promoted to First Mate 
in the Company's service, at eight pounds ten shillings a month, 
and ordering me to proceed without delay to Sunderland to join 
a new ship ready for her trials there, the S.S. Shira, Captain 
J. Cann. 

First Mate of a steamer on her maiden voyage! Well, that was 
a step up the ladder; but whether my promotion was due to my 
merits, or to the magical power of influence, or to sheer luck, I had 
no means of knowing. 



73 



CHAPTER SIX 



First Mate of the S.S. "Shira"A Maiden Voyage 
Ham, Turkey, and Champagne Bugs in the 
Fo'cfsle Bound for the Mysterious East Gi- 
braltar and the Mediterranean Port Said The 
Suez Canal The Red Sea We Arrive at Bom- 
bay Coolies and Chloride of Lime A Fakirs 
Trick Cargo at Karachi Home Again. 



I reached Sunderland by train, and put up at the Royal Hotel 
overnight. Next morning, after breakfast, I went in a horsedrawn 
cab with my dunnage to Pickersgill's shipyard, where the S.S. Shira, 
having been launched a few months previously, was in the final 
stages of being fitted out for her trials and her maiden voyage. In 
her size and design she was a sister ship of the Jura. I joined her 
on April 9, 1906. 

Leaving my sea chest, canvas bag, and bedding at the foot of the 
gangway, I went on board. A large number of workmen were busy, 
putting the finishing touches to the fittings, and splashing paint 
on, here and there. She certainly didn't look as though she'd be 
ready for her trials in two days time, as scheduled. 

I noticed a stocky, pugnacious looking man in a tight fitting 
gray suit and a bowler hat. He was standing on deck watching the 

74 



men at work. Going up to him, I asked, "Are you a dockyard man- 
ager?" 

He glared at me, and snapped, "No. I'm the Master of this ves- 
sel. Who are you?" 

"My name is Bisset," I told him. "I've been sent from Liverpool 
by Japp and Kirby to join the Shira as First Mate." 

"Is that so?" he commented, looking me up and down with 
obvious dislike. "Then what d'ye mean by strolling on board at 
nine o'clock in the morning? Don't you know work begins at seven 
o'clock? I've been here for two hours waiting for you!" 

Somewhat taken aback at being addressed in this brusque man- 
ner, I controlled my feelings, and said quietly, "My instructions 
are to join the ship today, and here I am. What do you want me 
to do?" 

Captain Cann had been informed, in a letter from the Marine 
Superintendent of Japp and Kirby, Captain Watt, of my appoint- 
ment, and knew that I had been Second Mate in the Jura. "I sup- 
pose you're a special friend of the M.S., eh?" he sneered. 

"Not specially," I said, curtly. I did not like the suggestion that 
I had gained promotion by favoritism, but I had no desire to be 
at loggerheads with the Captain, and I was puzzled at his hostility. 

It did not occur to me until later in the voyage that he suspected 
I might "tell tales" on him that is, report to the Marine Su- 
perintendent any irregularities I might notice in his dealings with 
stevedores, ship chandlers, and others in foreign ports, who some- 
times gave secret commissions (known as "New Hats") to the mas- 
ters of cargo vessels in connection with purchases of ship's supplies 
and the like. Such matters were at that time quite beyond my 
experience, and I had certainly no instructions, or any desire to 
"tell tales" on Captain Cann. He was probably annoyed at having 
such a young First Mate I had not yet turned twenty-three 
who was too green to be taken into his confidence in the matter of 
New Hats. 

"Well," he said, gruffly, "you and the Second and Third Mates 
will sign articles at 11 A.M. today. In the meantime, you'll be able 
to find your own way around. See the dockyard foreman, and check 
over -vyith him the list of stores on board." 

75 



The accommodation for the officers in the Shira was the same 
as in the Jura skimpily furnished. The First Mate's cabin had a 
bunk with no bedding, a wash basin without running water, and 
little more. I dumped my baggage in it, and began work. The task 
of checking the stores turned out to be a lengthy one, at this first 
fitting-out of the ship. Practically everything in her, including the 
fittings and fixtures, as well as her gear and provisions, were listed 
on the specification. She was to be handed over to the owners, 
ready to put to sea immediately. 

For several days, the Chief Engineer had been inspecting and 
testing the engines and other machinery. It took me the best part 
of two days to go over her from stem to stern, and from truck to 
keelson, examining everything in detail, including all cordage^ 
lamps, the anchors and cables, flags and all gear above and below 
deck, and the equipment on the bridge everything being brand 
new as well as the usual ship's stores required on a voyage. 

In the meantime the shipyard workers had cleared up the chaos 
on deck, and got her into seagoing trim in a lively and efficient 
manner. Stone ballast was taken in, as we were to proceed in bal- 
last to Barry Dock in South Wales, to load coal for Bombay. The 
crew were duly signed on. The full complement consisted of the 
Master, Mate, Second Mate, Third Mate, Boatswain, six Able 
Seamen, Chief Engineer, Second, Third and Fourth Engineers, 
donkey man, six firemen, four trimmers, cook, carpenter, and stew- 
ard twenty-nine men all told. 

There is a distinct feeling of a special occasion when a ship 
moves from the builders' yards, to make her first voyage. Even if 
she is only a tramp, as the Shira was, this is her first and perhaps 
her only day of festive glory, when all who have had a hand in 
fashioning her take pride in seeing their work well finished and put 
to the test. 

At the appointed time 10 A.M. on April 11, 1906 the Engi- 
neers had steam up and everything was in readiness. A party of 
officials came on board. They included directors of the shipbuild- 
ing firm, W. Pickersgill and Sons, with the heads of their depart- 
ments, architects, and engineers; and representatives of the owners, 
Japp and Kirby, including the Marine Superintendent, Captain 

76 



Watt, who had come from Liverpool; besides officials of the 
Board of Trade, Lloyds Insurance, the Port Authority, a Marine 
Surveyor and Compass Adjuster, and representatives of the local 
press and shipping newspapers, 

To entertain this party, and suitably celebrate the occasion, 
Pickersgills had sent on board a large hamper containing a ham, 
a roast turkey, and all the trimmings, together with a supply of 
champagne, whisky, and beer: all this in charge of an elderly but- 
ler garbed in "tails," who with our steward set the tables for the 
repast in the saloon. 

With a pilot on board, we towed out into the stream, and cast 
off the tug on reaching open water, at noon, in a light fog. Then 
the Shira's trials began, as we ran a measured distance from light- 
ship to lightship at full speed for about twenty minutes offshore, 
logging ten knots, while the experts prowled around, scrutinizing 
everything. Then tests were made of the steering, and of running 
at half speed, and slow, and going astern. Then the anchors were 
let go, to test them and the cables and the windlass. Next, all 
steam cargo winches and the steering engine were left running for 
ten minutes. 

The Marine Superintendent, the Captain, and the Chief Engi- 
neer being satisfied, and no one else raising any objection, the 
documents were signed, transferring the 5.S. Shira from the build- 
ers to the owners. All the "heads" then repaired to the saloon, and 
made short work of polishing off the victuals and grog, with 
speeches of mutual congratulations, and toasts wishing her a long 
and prosperous life. 

The Compass Adjuster, slightly fuddled with seasickness or 
champagne, did his best or worst with the compass, and, at 2 P.M., 
the tug, which had been standing by, ranged alongside to take 
off the shore party. 

All the officials, with jovial farewells, climbed unsteadily down 
the accommodation ladder, followed by the dignified butler 
now also jovial and unsteady, as he, in company with our steward, 
had hastily finished off a bottle of champagne they had managed 
to keep aside. 

The empty hamper was lowered to the deck of the tug, which 

77 



shoved off, circled around us once, and gave three farewell blasts 
o her steam whistle, to which we replied, as she headed for the 
shore, and we were left alone with our ship. 

"Heave away, Mister Mate!" the Captain ordered. I hove up the 
anchor, the engine telegraph clanged FULL AHEAD, and the 
S.S. Shira's seagoing career had begun. 

So, too, began my responsibilities as Mate second in command 
of a vessel of 3,495 tons at the age of twenty-two years, nine 
months, but I was then a seasoned salt with seven-and-a-half years 
of seagoing experience, and felt fairly confident that I would be 
able to do whatever could be reasonably required of me in that 
position, even though I was at first worried by Captain Cann's 
surly attitude toward me. 

He had been raised in a tough school, but so had I, as far as my 
experience went. He had ascertained that I was getting in my 
time to sit for the Master Mariner's examination. It would be 
within his power to give me a bad discharge at the end of the 
voyage, which would militate against my getting a Master's certifi- 
cate. 

This put me at a disadvantage which he was quick to realize. 
I was compelled to humor him to a certain extent, and to put up 
with slights which otherwise would have been intolerable. Yet, as 
I now view it, he was perhaps only trying, in his rough way, to 
keep me up to the mark, and to complete my nautical education, 
by finding fault, throughout the voyage, with almost everything 
I did, and never bestowing the slightest word of encouragement 
or approval, let alone praise. Consequently, I soon became heart- 
ily tired of his snarling and grumbling, and carried on with my 
work to the best of my ability, not caring whether it pleased him 
or not. 

Steaming along the east coast of England, we worked two 
watches four hours on and four off with the Second Mate, an 
older man than I, relieving me on the bridge. As soon as we got 
well under way in the North Sea, thick fog closed in, and the Cap- 
tain came on to the bridge and remained there, alert for the dan- 
gers of collision or running aground. 

78 




Mate in a tramp (James Bisset in S.S. Nether Holme, 1906). 



(* \ 




Liverpool Landing Stage with S.S. Umbria alongside. 



Nautical Photo Agency 




dinar d Line phot 



He was a careful navigator, and we steered good courses from 
lightship to lightship. The fog remained thick for twelve hours, 
but, when I came on deck next day at 4 P.M., the weather had 
cleared, and we were doing full speed through the busy Straits of 
Dover. 

On arrival at Barry, we had to moor between buoys in the center 
of the dock for two days, to await a berth under the coal tips. Dur- 
ing this time we got additional stores on board, including paint, 
rope, and provisions. The forecastle hands formed a deputation to 
the Captain, to complain that there were bedbugs in their quarters. 

"Bedbugs!" the Captain roared. "How can there be bedbugs in 
a new ship?" 

One of the firemen pulled up his shirt, exposing his hairy belly 
splotched with unmistakable bug bites. Another unrolled a piece 
of paper, in which he had the squashed bodies of three bugs. He 
showed these to the Captain. "Caught 'em last night, sir," he 
said. 

"Ypu must have brought 'em on board with you in your blankets 
from the Sunderland boarding house," the Captain said, probably 
making a correct surmise. Then he continued, "Shake all your 
blankets, bedding, and clothes over the rail, and drown the bloody 
bugs in the sea. That'll get rid of most of 'em. Then clear every- 
thing away from the bulkheads, deck, and deckhead in your 
quarters, and the bosun will paint all the woodwork with carbolic 
acid disinfectant, to kill the rest of the bugs, and their eggs, before 
they breed some more. That'll do you now. Lay forward." 

The f o'c'slehands turned to with a will to clear out their quar- 
ters, while the boatswain procured a tin of carbolic acid and a 
paint brush. Instead of breaking down the strong acid with water, 
he painted it into the cracks in concentrated form. 

Next day the men complained that the stench of the carbolic 
gave them a headache, and they could not sleep. They said that 
the stink of the disinfectant was worse than the bugs. 

"Let me hear no more o' this nonsense," said the Captain. "You 
can put up with the stink. It can't bite youl" 

We moved under the tips for two days, to load 5,000 tons of 
best quality screened coal, to be delivered at Bombay for the In- 

79 



dian railways. No sooner were we made fast under the cranes than 
the Captain went ashore, to stay at a waterfront hotel, leaving me 
in charge of the dirty operations of loading. Wise manl He came 
on board occasionally, and usually made some sarcastic remarks 
to me, warning me that he depended on me to get a full cargo in, 
stowed so that it couldn't shift when we were at sea, and to keep 
the ship on an even keel. 

I took little notice of his sarcasm. I knew by now that he was a 
nasty piece of work, and there was nothing I could do but put 
up with him. He had not a friend on board, except the steward, 
an oily creature who had served with him in several other ships. 

For those two days and nights, life was a misery. We breathed 
and practically ate coal dust, which smothered every part of the 
ship. The coal came alongside in a long train of railroad wagons, 
hauled by a shunting engine. As each wagon came under the crane, 
filled with ten tons of coal, it was hoisted bodily from its bogie 
and swung out over an iron chute leading to the hatchway. Then 
one end of the wagon was released, and the contents cascaded with 
a clatter and a cloud of black dust into the hold. This went on 
night and day. When one hatch was blocked with coal, we warped 
the ship along the wharf for 200 feet or so, to bring another hatch 
under the tip. In the meantime, trimmers went into the blocked 
hatch, to shovel the coal into the corners of the hold, and so to 
make room for the next loading, when we warped the ship back 
again to her former position. 

Frequently I went down below into each of the four holds, to 
inspect the shifting-boards, ventilators, and hatch-beams, and to 
satisfy myself that the coal was being leveled off properly into 
every corner. I felt it would be inadvisable to try to snatch a few 
minutes sleep in my bunk, as the Captain would be sure to stroll 
on board just at that moment, to accuse me of neglecting my du- 
ties. Therefore, blackened all over my body, and with my windpipe 
and gizzard choked with coal dust, I remained awake for forty- 
eight hours of horrible discomfort, until all the holds were filled 
with coal to the deckheads, and the ship was down to the Plimsoll 
mark, and on a perfectly even keel. 

Then the Captain strolled on board, and, without a word of 

80 



appreciation to the three sooty Mates, said, "She's in a filthy condi- 
tion. Stand by to cast off moorings and take the towlines -when 
the tug comes alongside, and get all hands to hose her down as 
soon as we're under way/' 

Such was life in a "dirty British freighter/ 1 in those grand days 
of the Empire's greatest prosperity, when millions were being 
made by shipowners and coalowners, sending British coal to the 
ends of the earth. The officers and men of the mercantile marine, 
with small pay and little recognition of their merits, took the brunt 
of the hard and dirty work and never complained. It was the tradi- 
tion of our profession to deliver the goods, and to take the rough 
with the smooth. 

We hauled out of Barry Dock, and it was good to feel the mo- 
tion of the open sea and get the coal dust washed out of her and 
out of ourselves. First stop Port Said! I was thrilled at the pros- 
pect of seeing the "Mysterious East," of which I, like everyone 
else, had heard and read so much. 

As we steered southwards across the Bay of Biscay, we had high 
westerly seas abeam, in which the Shira wallowed and rolled 
through an angle of thirty degrees, shipping green water into the 
welldecks at every roll, but without any rumblings of the coal 
down below, as I was pleased to remark to the Captain; for she was 
well stowed. He merely scowled and said, "If she takes a list, it 
will be your fault!" 

Steaming at only nine knots, deep laden as we were, we sighted 
Cape St. Vincent on the fifth day out, and then headed eastwards, 
past Cape Trafalgar, through the Strait of Gibraltar, only nine 
miles wide at the narrowest point, between Cape Tarifa in Spain 
and the Moroccan shore. 

When the rock fortress of Gibraltar came in sight the British 
cork in the bottleneck of the Mediterranean Sea I gazed at it 
with awe, for it was a symbol to the young Englishman of that 
day of all the courage and prestige of the British Empire: the con- 
trolling point of the sea route, via Suez, to India "the Brightest 
Jewel in the Imperial Crown" whither we were bound. 

As we plugged along in the bright blue waters of the Mediter- 

81 



ranean, beneath a sunny sky, I could see in imagination the mari- 
time pageant of thousands of years in this great inland sea which 
was for so long the center of the civilized world. There had sailed 
and fought the navies of the Ancient Egyptians, the Greeks, the 
Phoenicians, the Romans, the Carthaginians, the Turks, the Vene- 
tians, the Barbary pirates . . . This almost tideless lake, 2,000 
miles long and up to 400 miles wide, was indeed the cradle of the 
seagoing profession. It is, in a geographical sense, the vast estuary, 
or sunken valley, of the Nile, conjoined with the waters of the 
Don, the Danube, the Rhone, and other rivers pouring down from 
the snow-clad roof of Europe all these fresh waters filling the im- 
mense basin with such a pressure that the tides of the Atlantic 
Ocean can scarcely enter against them at the only ocean gate, the 
Strait of Gibraltar. 

As I saw it first, in April, 1906, the Mediterranean had become, 
since Lord Nelson's day, and more particularly since the open- 
ing of the Suez Canal in 1869, a great highway of British seaborne 
trade to Egypt, India, China, and Australia. 

This was a steamer route, and not a sailing ship route for our 
mercantile marine. The British naval bases at Gibraltar, Malta, 
Cyprus, and Alexandria would dominate that route in time of 
war, and exercised a permanent influence on power politics in 
times of peace. Our naval and mercantile supremacy were un- 
challenged, and it seemed unthinkable that they could ever be 
challenged. We little realized what formidable struggles lay ahead 
of us. 

Five days after passing Gibraltar, we steamed past Malta, and 
in another five days dropped anchor in the roadstead at Port Said, 
at the entrance to the Suez Canal, to wait for a Canal Pilot. 

At last I was in the Mysterious East, as I quickly realized when 
we were surrounded by bumboats filled with gesticulating and 
shouting Egyptians, wearing red fezzes, and clad in long blue or 
striped cotton caftan garments. 

The Captain had given orders that everything portable on deck 
such as loose ropes, paint pots and brushes and the like should 
be stowed out of reach, and no bumboatmen allowed on board. 

82 



It became then the duty of the Mates and the crew to line the bul- 
warks and take station on the poop and forecastlehead, to thrust 
the more daring of these pirate-like pests overside when they at- 
tempted to clamber on board. 

The ship was a pandemonium of profanity in English and Ara- 
bic, until the bumboatmen saw a police boat approaching, and 
contented themselves with trying to do business by standing in 
their own boats, holding up rugs, shawls, brassware, cigarettes, 
and dirty postcards, loudly shouting out the prices. 

Such was my introduction to the Mysterious East! Some of our 
crew bought the bargains offered, but the bumboatmen soon real- 
ized that we had no wealthy passengers on board, and rowed away 
to lie in wait for a more profitable ship. Presently a Canal Pilot 
came aboard, and we hove up the anchor and steered into the 
Canal entrance. 

The passage through the Canal, 100 miles from Port Said to 
Suez, took us a day and a half, going at half speed, and anchoring 
for an hour at the Bitter Lake to allow a homeward bound P. and 
O. liner to pass. During the dark hours, we had a searchlight over 
the bow to illumine the buoys marking the center of the canal. 

It was a strange sensation to be looking out from the bridge, to 
port or to starboard, over a sea of sandhills, with only the narrow 
ribbon of the Canal ahead and astern. The ship seemed to have 
become landbound, the illusion heightened when Arabs riding 
on camels were sighted on the horizon. Ships of the Desert! If 
they were strange to our vision, it must be equally strange to each 
Arab who beholds, for the first time, from camelback, afar, a 
steamer apparently making her way through the desert . . . 

The pilot left us at Suez, and we steamed for six days through 
the Red Sea, in dreadful heat which was almost unbearable, as 
we had no refrigeration, electric fans, or other comforts of pas- 
senger liners. We rigged awnings, but they were skimpy things. 
The temperature hovered around 110 F. in the shade, and the 
only breeze was a hot east wind off the desert of Arabia. 

At last we passed through the narrow Strait of Bab el Mandeb 
and into the Indian Ocean, after having voyaged through land- 
locked seas for 3,316 miles since leaving the Atlantic Ocean at 

83 



Gibraltar. In a geographical sense that entire distance, including 
the Suez Canal, is a gigantic strait by far the longest strait in the 
world and it was a distinct relief when we had Cape Gardafui 
abeam, and felt the ocean swell and the breeze from the wide open 
south with no smell of land in it. 

In eight days steaming eastwards across the Arabian Sea we ar- 
rived at Bombay, after a passage of twenty-eight days from Barry 
Dock. We anchored in the Roads, two miles offshore. The bay is 
large, and a famous haven of ships, for this was "the Gateway of 
India." 

Bombay City is on a peninsula eleven miles long, which forms 
a natural breakwater, enclosing the bay. There are many docks 
and wharves along the city waterfront; but, for some reason that 
I could not plumb, the agents or the consignees had decided to 
have our cargo discharged into lighters at the anchorage. This may 
have saved some docking expenses, but it involved a long stay 
in port, while our 5,000 tons of coal were discharged by manual 
labor. 

Probably there was some "racket" in connection with the light- 
erage or stevedoring arrangements, and the employment of a big 
gang of coolies to handle the coal. Though we had steam winches 
and derricks, these were not used to sling the cargo out of the holds 
into the lighters. Everything was done manually by the shore gang, 
as in sailing ship days. 

A gang of not less than 200 coolies came off, in the lighters, 
bringing with them about the same number of women and chil- 
dren. All swarmed aboard, and took possession of the welldecks 
and holds, to begin work, under control of their "serangs." 

Their methods of working were primitive. They used shovels 
shaped like Dutch hoes, and dragged the coal with these into 
small flat baskets, each holding about forty pounds of coal. These 
baskets were handed up to the deck along a "human chain" and 
emptied down chutes into the lighters. As they worked deeper into 
the hold, the coolies rigged stages in a series of steps in the hatch- 
ways, and two persons on each stage lifted the baskets from one 
stage to the next. 

Occasionally, when urged on by the serang, they would break 

84 



into a monotonous chanty, during which the baskets would fly up 
from hand to hand, without touching the stages; but after about 
ten minutes of this exhausting effort, the work would slow down, 
and be carried on to the accompaniment of much yelling and 
quarreling. 

For health reasons, the Port Authorities had insisted on latrines 
being built out over the ship's side for this mass of people, but very 
few of the coolies made use of them. The dark corners of the hold 
were good enough, and in consequence the holds were soon foul 
and stinking. To counteract the stench, we obtained several hun- 
dredweights of chloride of lime from on shore, and sprinkled it 
liberally in the holds every night. What with the steamy heat, the 
stench of excrement, and the clouds of coal dust, life on board was 
a misery, alleviated only by the fact that the Captain spent most of 
his time ashore. 

Discharging the cargo in this primitive manner took a fortnight 
As we knew that we would be moving to the dock later, to load 
bagged rice and baled cotton for a French firm, most of the officers 
and crew did not go ashore in the evenings from our anchorage 
to see the sights of Bombay. After washing ourselves, and the 
decks, and disinfecting the ship, we settled down to reading or 
playing cards, and made the best of our uncomfortable situation. 

The Mysterious East was sufficiently in evidence during the day- 
time, when, in addition to the horde of coolies, we had throngs 
of bumboatmen, including tailors, shoemakers, barbers, and mer- 
chants offering all kinds of curios and junk. Among these were 
conjurors, snake charmers, and fortune tellers. 

One of our visitors was a mystic, who wore dark robes and a 
white turban. He was a well-built man, with a thick black beard. 
He usually came on board at lunchtime, and moved about the 
ship with great dignity, occasionally halting to stare into in- 
finity, as though communing with the gods. He was a fortune teller, 
who carried on a sideline selling magic trinkets. 

At first he got little business, but one day I noticed that his line 
of talk had attracted the. attention of the Second Mate, the En- 
gineers, and several of the crew, who were listening intently as he 
explained, in good, measured English, his mysterious powers of 

85 



seeing into the future, which he would be willing to exercise for 
one rupee per person. 

The Second Mate said, sceptically, "Give us a proof of your 
magical powers!" 

"Very well, sahib/' said the mystic. "I will show you before all 
men. You bring me a sheet of newspaper, and I will spread it on 
the deck. We will both stand on the newspaper. You will hold a 
bamboo stick in your right hand, and you will not be able to hit 
me with it. Your arms will be perfectly free, and I will not move 
or jump off the paper, but you will be powerless to hit me with the 
stick!" 

"Hypnotism?" asked the Second Mate. 

"I make no explanations, sahib. I only say that you will be un- 
able to hit me." 

The Chief Engineer happened to have a newspaper in his pocket. 
"Try it, mon," he urged. 

The mystic took the paper and examined it closely. The sheet 
when opened out was the standard newspaper size of thirty-two 
inches by twenty-two inches. "If you stand with me on that paper 
for half a minute," said the Second Mate, "and I have a stick in 
my hand, I'll give you a crack with it that you won't forget!" 

"You like to bet me, sahib?" asked the mystic. 

"All right, ten rupees!" The wager was laid, and the Chief 
Engineer acted as stakeholder and umpire. 

"Now," said the mystic, "I will spread the newspaper on the 
deck." He walked to the break of the poop, a steel bulkhead, with 
a riveted door. There was a gap of about one-eighth of an inch 
between the bottom of the door and the deck. 

The mystic pushed the newspaper halfway under the door, and 
said, "Now, sahib, I will go inside of the door, and you will stand 
on this side with the bamboo. We will both stand on the paper." 

Before he could say any more, there was a loud guffaw from 
the assembled crew. The Second Mate looked dumbfounded. "You 
win. you bloody old fraud!" he said. 

The Chief Engineer enjoyed the joke as much as anyone. "You've 
been fair-r-rly caught, Mister," he said. "Mon, who wad hae 
thocht o' such a thing!" He handed over the stakes to the mystic, 

86 



who had not for one moment lost his dignity. The Chief took the 
Second Mate's arm. "Come awa and hae a dram, laddie," he said, 
consolingly. "Yon fakir did ye doon, but it was a fair bet and ye 
maun be a spor-r-rtl" 

So we learned something more of the inscrutable ways of the 
Mysterious East. 

When all the coal was discharged, we hosed out the holds, then 
hove up the anchor, and took a tow from a tug to berth at the dock, 
in order to load a part cargo, before proceeding to Karachi to 
complete loading. 

It was imperative to keep the bagged rice and cotton dry, to pre- 
vent it from going moldy, but this proved to be no easy matter. 
Showers of monsoonal rain fell at intervals throughout the day, 
with very little warning, between bursts of broiling sunshine. The 
squalls lasted only five minutes or so, but, when they came, the 
men working at the hatches had to stand by smartly to put tar- 
paulin covers over the hatchways, to prevent rain from going 
down into the hold. 

In my eagerness to see this work properly done, I got wet through 
several times a day, and, instead of changing my clothing, I just 
dried out in the sun. Whether from this cause, or infection from 
the ordure of the coolies while we had been lying out in the bay, I 
developed dengue fever, with a high temperature and delirium, 
and one morning I was unable to rise from my bunk. 

The Port Doctor came to see me. He was a chronic drunk. With 
a shaky hand he put some quinine powder into a cigarette paper, 
poured it on the back of my tongue, and told me to wash it down 
with a pint of cold water. He came each morning with similar 
treatment. 

For three days I lay in a fever, unable to take any food, and think- 
ing that my end was near. 

The Captain came to see me once a day. He said to me, "Dengue 
fever is nothing much! When I had it, I didn't lay up. No fear! 
The best cure is to get up and keep busy. I want you on the job 
looking after the stowage of the cargo, not lying in your bunk 
groaning like a stuck pig!" 

87 



The oily steward also looked in occasionally, and nursed me with 
very bad grace. On the fourth day, though still feeling very shaky, 
I got up and resumed duty. That day, the Second Mate went 
down with dengue, and I was left with only the Third Mate, a 
lazy, shiftless fellow, to assist me. 

Having taken in a half-cargo, we departed gladly for Karachi, 
480 miles northwards along the coast, and arrived there in three 
days. The sea breezes cooled the ship off and blew the fever germs 
out of us. 

At Karachi we completed loading, and then returned, by way 
of the Suez Canal, to the Mediterranean. 

There, we proceeded to Oran, in French Algeria, for bunkers, 
and to discharge the bagged rice, and then on through the Strait 
of Gibraltar, and to Havre, to deliver the rest of our cargo. 

We arrived at Havre early in August, 1906, and from there pro- 
ceeded in ballast to Barry Dock, for another cargo of coal. 

I had learned something on that voyage, and now had a some- 
what disillusioned view of the Wonders of the Orient. 



88 



CHAPTER SEVEN 
t 



Paid off from the Shira I Turn down a Chance 
of New Hats "On the Beach Again" First 
Mate of the "Nether Holme" A Voyage from 
Maryport Meet Percy Hefford The Captain's 
Rheumatics Cleaning up a Tramp Naval Coal 
at Barry Dock Crew Desert A Cold Job 
Pride and Luck The Western Ocean. 



WHEN the S.S. Shira moored at Barry Dock, the Captain's wife 
came on board. She was a bosomy blonde, with a cheery line of 
chatter, and the Captain grew quite mellow in her company. She 
had meals with us at the saloon table, and kept us all amused. 

Another important visitor was Captain Watt, Marine Superin- 
tendent of Japp and Kirby, who came from Liverpool to inspect 
the ship after her maiden voyage. In the presence of the Captain, 
he congratulated me on her appearance and condition. He told us 
that the Shira would be going on a two-years time charter between 
New York and Brazilian ports, and asked me if I would sign on in 
her again for that period as First Mate. 

This put me in a spot. I needed only another two months sea 
time before sitting for my Master's exam, and, if I went in the 
Shira, goodness knows when I would be able to sit! I put this point 
to Captain Watt, and he agreed that it would be advisable in my 

89 



own interests not to engage on such a lengthy voyage in the cir- 
cumstances. He said he would arrange for me to be paid off when 
the ship moved under the tips. 

Out of Captain Watt's hearing, Captain Cann surprised me by 
saying affably, "You'd better come on this charter party, Bisset! 
Lots of New Hats, you know, in the South American ports!" and 
he gave me a sly wink. 

But I wasn't interested. My Master's certificate was all that I 
wanted. Captain Cann gave me a good reference, and quite a cor- 
dial goodbye. "I'm sorry you're leaving," he said. "You've done 
your work very welll" 

This change of tune, after all his grumbling and nagging 
throughout the voyage, left me flabbergasted, but came far too 
late to remove from my mind the memories of four months carp- 
ing criticism that I had endured; so I left the Shira and Captain 
Cann without regrets. 

I have sometimes thought, since then, that he did not really 
dislike me, but was only trying, in a misguided way, to keep a 
young officer up to the mark. There were, and perhaps still are, 
many in the nautical profession, as in other professions and busi- 
nesses, who consider that the badge of authority is grumpiness. 
But an occasional word or smile of approval from a senior to a 
junior is more effective than perpetual scowling and growling. 
And though slackness should certainly be rebuked, severely if 
need be, a word of approval occasionally for good work is an 
encouragement, especially to younger men, to earn more of the 
same. 

Paid off from the Shira on August 13, 1906, I took train to 
Liverpool, and was "on the beach" again, looking for a short en- 
gagement, either as First or Second Mate. I was already a member 
of the Mercantile Marine Service Association, but now joined 
also the Merchant Service Guild and the Shipping Federation. 
These three bodies all had employment bureaus. 

I found it harder than I thought it would be to find a vessel 
going to sea on a short voyage, in need of a Mate or Second Mate. 
Then, after a month of disappointments, I was told by the em- 

90 



ployment derk at the Merchant Service Guild office that the 
S.S. Orbo, loading coal at Birkenhead for Huelva in Southern 
Spain, wanted a Second Mate, 

Taking the ferry across the Mersey to Birkenhead, I found the 
Orbo under the coal tip. My heart sank when I sighted her. She 
was a small, rusty, and extremely dirty old tub, with not a rem- 
nant of the pride of the sea in her appearance; yet she was on a 
profitable run, carrying coal to Huelva and returning with iron 
ore, and making five or six voyages a year. 

Going on board, I found the Mate, a man with a gray beard, 
who appeared to be at least seventy years of age. Everything was 
covered in dirt and disorder. The Mate showed me my cabin. It 
was half full of coal that had found its way in through an opening 
in the bunker hatch. I dimbed over it, to look at the accommoda- 
tion. There was a narrow bunk and a settee, and a porthole five 
inches in diameter, partly obscured by paint on the outside. I 
lifted up the horsehair cushion on the settee and it fell to pieces 
in my hand. There were cockroaches and filth everywhere. 

I said to the venerable Mate, "This ship's in a dirty condition!" 
and he answered, "She's all right when she gets to sea!" 

"Maybe," I said, "but I doubt it. I'm going ashore to look for 
another ship." 

"But you can't do that!" he remonstrated. "We've nearly finished 
loading, and we're due to dear out tonight. We can't go without 
a Second Mate, and you've taken the job." 

"I haven't signed on yet!" 

"Well, why won't you sign on?" 

"The accommodation's not fit for a dog!" 

The Mate looked at me scornfully. "Some o* you young fellers 
are too damn' particular," he growled. 

I returned on the ferry to Liverpool and told the official in 
charge of the Merchant Service Guild employment bureau why I 
had "chucked" the Orbo. Later that day, the owners of the Orbo 
formally reported me to the Guild for leaving them in the lurch. 
The Guild told them to improve their accommodation! 

I was "on the beach" again. 

91 



Three weeks went by, and I was beginning to feel seriously wor- 
ried. Then I got another call from the Merchant Service Guild, 
this time to join the S,S. Nether Holme, owned by Hine Brothers, 
of Maryport in Cumberland, as First Mate, at eight pounds a 
month. She was bound for Swansea, to load coal for Bermuda, and 
from there to Eastern Canada, to load lumber for Glasgow. She 
was scheduled to take two months on the voyage just what I 
wanted! 

Maryport is 120 miles northward of Liverpool, by rail. I saw 
the owners' Liverpool agents in the forenoon of October 1. They 
engaged me and told me that I would be required to be on board 
the Nether Holme at Maryport that same evening, as she was 
to sail next day. 

I rushed home to get my seagoing outfit ready, and within two 
hours I was trundling down to Exchange Station in an old four- 
wheeled growler, with my dunnage stowed on top. The train jour- 
ney from Liverpool to Maryport took eight hours, with long stops 
at local stations, and three changes. 

Winter had set in. When I arrived at Maryport, at 11 P.M., icy 
rain was falling and a northwesterly gale was raging. The gloomy, 
gaslit station was deserted, except for a solitary porter. In a mourn- 
ful voice, he informed me that there were no cabs available at that 
time of night to take me to the docks, a mile away. "Ye'll have to 
foot it," he said. 

"What about my baggage?" I asked. 

"Mebbe old Charlie is outside wi' his barrow." 

I found old Charlie, sleeping underneath his barrow, keeping 
himself dry and warm under a covering of gunny-sacks. "It's nob- 
but a mile from 'ere,' 1 he growled. "I'll take ye there for two bob." 

We hoisted my sea bag, sea chest and roll of bedding on to his 
barrow, covered them with the sacks, and trudged through the 
deserted streets of the town in the driving, dismal rain. 

Maryport was a town of 10,000 population, with a reputation 
among sailors because of its local industry of sailcloth making. Its 
docks, fronting the Solway Firth, were used chiefly by fishing trawl- 
ers and coasters. When we arrived alongside the S.S. Nether 
Holme, she was in darkness, except for the dim light of a hurri- 

92 



cane lantern in the caboose, where the night watchman was dozing 
by the galley stove. 

The lights at the dockside showed me her outlines, and my worst 
fears were realized. The S.S. Nether Holme was a rusty, slab sided 
tramp of antiquated design. She was a single-screw steamship of 
only 1,492 tons gross, built in 1888 by Thompsons of Sunderland, 
She was 277 feet long, 37 feet beam and 19i/ feet deep, with a 
"three island" profile, and a speed of 8 knots. 

Going on board, I rooted out the elderly night watchman, and 
between us we got my gear down to my cabin, which was under 
the poop, and in total darkness, as the ship did not have electric 
light. I struck a match and lit the oil lamp on the bulkhead. 

The cabin was very small, with a bunk, a settee, a chest of 
drawers, and a cracked washbasin. Everything was in disrepair 
and covered in dirt. Evidently my predecessor as First Mate of 
this old hooker was not ship-proud, to put it mildly. If the whole 
ship was like the Mate's cabin, I'd have some work ahead of me. 

I had a mind to back out there and then, and return to Liver- 
pool; but, being tired, cold, wet, and hungry, I decided that at 
least I was out of the wet for the time being, and decided to stay 
where I was. So I got half undressed, rolled myself in my blankets, 
dowsed the glim, and fell asleep. 

After what seemed like five minutes, I was awakened by a gruff 
voice announcing, "Six o'clock, Mister." I sat up and saw a fat 
man with a walrus mustache, holding a hurricane lamp in one 
hand and a mug of steaming tea in the other. He put these on the 
chest of drawers, struck a match and lit the bulkhead lamp. 'Tm 
Billy the steward," he announced. "I 'ope you'll like the old ship, 
Mister. I bin in 'er for nigh on twenny year, and she's a reg'lar 
'ome from 'omeP 

As I was drinking the tea, there was a knock at the door. A 
cheerful looking man of about my own age entered and intro- 
duced himself. 

He was the Second Mate, Percy Hefford, and I took a liking to 
him straight away. He wore a working garb of black woolen 
trousers, sea boots, thick blue guernsey, and muffler, and a badge 
cap askew in the right style of a Second Mate. "I've been in this 

93 



ship for twelve months," he told me, "and I'm not dead yet. I'm 
getting in my time for First Mate, with only two months to go." 

"I'm getting in time, too, and needing two months," I said, 
"but I nearly walked off her last night! I've been sent up here in 
a hurry. Are the Captain and the crew aboard?" 

"Yes," said Hefford. "She's to sail at noon, in ballast for Swansea, 
to load coal for Bermuda Naval Dockyard." 

"Is there a Third Mate?" 

"No," he told me. "We work two watches, and there's no bosun 
either! The Captain very seldom comes on to the bridge. We have 
only five A.B.'s, and the Mates have to do some work on deck. She's 
in a mess because we have just been discharging iron ore from 
Spain. We took in the ballast yesterday. The Mate got drunk, 
and the Old Man sacked him!" 

"So that's why I was sent up in such a hell of a hurry," I com- 
mented. "I felt like backing out when I clapped eyes on this dog 
box I have to live in." 

"She's just an oldf ashioned tramp," grinned Hefford. "The Cap- 
tain and the Mates and the steward live under the poop. The 
Chief and the two Engineers and the cook live over engine-room, 
and the rest of the hands forward. The Old Man suffers from 
rheumatism, and doesn't stay too long on the bridge. He's easy- 
going, and leaves the work and worry to the Mates, but he's a fine 
seaman of the old school. The old tub's a rattletrap, but she's 
sound enoughl" 

With these few words, the Second Mate had told me most of 
the things I wanted to know. The more I saw of Percy Hefford, the 
more I liked him. We became and remained firm friends. I shall 
tell later what fate had in store for him. 

As daylight came in, with rain still pouring down, I went out on 
deck to look at the ship and her gear and crew. All her ironwork 
was covered in rust, with no signs of recent chipping and painting. 
She had a short, deep welldeck forward and a long, shallow one 
aft. The decks and scuppers were covered in iron ore, and littered 
with neglected gear. Almost the first thing that took my eye was 
her old-fashioned steering gear. From the steering engine under 

94 



the bridge, iron rods and chains were ranged on top of the bul- 
warks, leading to an uncovered rudder quadrant on the poop. I 
had thought that kind of steering went out of date when Noah 
piled the Ark on Mount Ararat. At least it was all open to in- 
spection! 

Hefford went forward, roused out the five A.B.'s, and we put 
them to work clearing up. They were an elderly, scruffy lot, evi- 
dently not fond of work, and resentful at having a new young 
Mate who seemed too keen. 

The Engineers were down below early, getting up steam all 
Scots and men of few words. I made their acquaintance, and then 
went up to the bridge for a look around. It was as I expected, in 
the same neglected condition as the rest of the vessel the brass- 
work on the compass, engine telegraph, and wheel thick with 
verdigris, and the paint on the woodwork peeling. 

The bridge itself was only a narrow gangway running athwart- 
ships, six feet above the deck. It was surrounded with match board- 
ing, waist high, but was otherwise unprotected from the elements, 
except for a ragged canvas "dodger" amidships. The deck plank- 
ing of the bridge looked as though it hadn't been scrubbed, or 
even swept, for months. It was gritty with coal dust and iron ore 
particles. I looked into the chartroom, which opened out of the 
steering engine house. It had a table, a settee, and the usual chart 
lockers. The settee, charts, and books were soggy with damp from 
escaping steam. No wonder the Captain had rheumatism! 

At 7:30, Billy the Steward appeared on the poop, wearing an 
apron which had been white some years previously, and rang a 
handbell for breakfast. The Deck Officers and the Engineers had 
their meals together, in a small messroom amidships, but the 
Captain took his meals alone in his saloon, under the poop. 

He had not yet appeared on deck, but I decided that the time 
had come to make his acquaintance. I knocked at the door of his 
saloon, and, hearing a groaning sound within, opened it, and 
entered. 

Captain James Roberts, Master of the SS. Nether Holme, was a 
tall, ungainly looking man, in his middle fifties, with gray hair and 
mustache, a red face, very keen blue eyes, and hands swollen with 

95 



arthritis. He greeted me with a groan of pain, and winced when 
we shook hands. "Oogh!" he said. "So you're the new Mate. I'm 
glad you're here on time. Oogh! My rheumatics are giving me gyp 
this morning. It's this demned rain. Cumberland's the wettest 
hole in England. Glad we're clearing out of it today. Oogh! What 
experience have you had?" 

I told him briefly, and he continued, "Oogh, you'll do. You 
can sign on at the company's office ashore this morning. In the 
meantime, get her ready to put to sea at noon. I hope you're not a 
drinker, like the Mate I've just sacked for drunkenness. If you're 
a sober man, we'll be friends. If not, out you go at the end of the 
voyage." 

I assured him of my sober habits. As for getting out at the end 
of the voyage, I had already made up my mind on that point, so 
no comment was necessary. 

During the morning, I went ashore and signed articles, and at 
noon a pilot came aboard, a tug took our tow rope, the Captain 
stood on the bridge, I went to the fo'c'slehead and Hefford to the 
poop. 

The dock and harbor of Maryport were crowded with trawlers, 
coasters, and other small vessels. "Stand by to cast off!" Captain 
Roberts sang out, through his megaphone. 

This was the signal for pandemonium, as the Captain, the Pilot, 
the Tugmaster, the Dockmaster, and boatmen running lines across 
the dock all began singing out at the top of their voices as though 
we were engaged in the most intricate feat of seamanship ever 
known. 

The S.S. Nether Holme was the pride of Maryport, her port of 
registry. A crowd of fisherfolk and townsfolk were at the dockside 
for the excitement of seeing her go out; for, though she was no 
leviathan, and certainly not in the pride of her youth, she was 
one of the biggest vessels frequenting that port, and she bore the 
name of Maryport, painted beneath her own name under the 
stern, to be displayed in far places where Maryport was never 
otherwise heard of. 

Despite the driving rain and cross wind, we got her safely 

96 



turned around, and headed out between the pierheads, and away 
to sea, doing a rollicking seven knots. She was very lightly bal- 
lasted, and high in the water, but she breasted the seas daintily 
enough. 

As soon as the course was set, the Captain went into the chart- 
room, and stretched himself on his settee, groaning with rheu- 
matics. I took first watch on the bridge, and, having three A.B.'s 
in my watch, posted one at the wheel, one on lookout, and set one 
to sweep down and scrub the bridgedeck, until he relieved the 
wheel after two hours. 

Three days later we moored between buoys in Swansea, and 
by that time the decks were cleared of most of their surface grime, 
and some of the rust had been chipped away and the brasswork 
polished. Hefford and I had both turned to, during our watches, 
and for part of our watches below during daylight hours, to work 
with the A.B.'s at cleaning ship and overhauling the deck gear. 

On learning that we would not be going under the tips for three 
days, I ordered the five A.B.'s overside in stages, to start chipping 
and painting the proper work of seamen in port, which they 
thoroughly hated. 

One of the seamen said to me in pretended seriousness, "Mis- 
ter, if I tap her too hard with the dripping-hammer, I'm afeared 
it will make a hole in her side!" 

"Carry on," I told him. "I've heard that excuse many a time, but 
I've never yet seen a hull plate holed with a hammer." 

The Captain was pleased, and Hefford amused, at my efforts 
to make this rusty old collier look presentable; but it was soon 
borne in on me that the A.B.'s were disgusted at my zeal, and dis- 
liked having a leisurely pleasure cruise spoiled by a young Mate 
with fancy sailing ship ideas of furbishing ship. 

Evidently they thought that they were going to be hounded 
throughout the voyage. As soon as we moved to the dockside, the 
whole five of them cleared out, bag and baggage. 

I was not sorry to see them go, as, without refusing orders, they 
were a surly, resentful crowd who had been allowed by my boozy 
predecessor to do as they pleased. The Captain fully supported 

97 



my efforts to get his ship into seagoing trim and smarten her up. 

"Good riddance to bad rubbish/' he remarked, when I told him 
that all the A.B.'s had deserted. "We'll get a new crew with no 
troublemakers. It's best to make a dean sweepl" 

We now needed five new men quickly, but these were not easy 
to get in Swansea. The Captain went ashore, and, with the aid 
of a friendly Board of Trade official, signed on five new seamen, 
who came aboard just before midnight. 

Only one of these, an elderly man named Perkins, had served 
in a steamer. The other four were young Welsh fishermen, ex- 
perienced only in sailing coasters and trawlers, but keen and will- 
ing to work. 

We warped under the tips, and, in twenty-four hours of horrible 
discomfort, hard work, worry, crashing noise, and clouds of black 
dust, we had our holds filled to the deckheads with 3,000 tons of 
naval coal, and the bunkers also filled with the utmost quantity 
that could be stowed in fact, with forty tons more than could 
properly be stowed. 

The extra loading was dumped on top of the hatch. A few 
hatch boards had been left off underneath the heap, the idea being 
that the heap would gradually subside as coal was used from 
the bottom of the bunkers. This was against regulations, but a 
common practice, as bunker coal was cheap at Barry but dear 
at Bermuda, and difficult to obtain at the lumber port in Eastern 
Canada where we were bound. 

It was on the Captain's orders that we took on the extra bunker 
coal. He was a wise old bird. The ship was now down to the Plim- 
soll, in fact nearly down to the gunwales, but overloading was 
sometimes winked at in those days of get and grab in the coal trade. 

A young Naval Officer came aboard, as we now had the status 
of a Naval collier. His duty was to see that we were properly 
loaded and in seaworthy condition, but he missed the very point 
that he was supposed to detect the gap in the hatchboards under 
the dump of bunker coal on deck. 

After asking a few formal questions about our draught and 
tonnage, he signed our clearance papers and went ashore without 
causing us any trouble. 

98 



At 8 P.M., the seamen, firemen, and trimmers were mustered at 
the break of the poop, to make sure that none had deserted at the 
last moment. All being present and everything else in order, we 
warped out into the center of the dock, to be ready to go through 
the lock at high tide, 9:30 P.M. 

While we were doing this, one of the stern mooring lines a 
thick but rotten old Manila hawser carried away, and got foul 
of the propeller. We hove in the fag end, but it was impossible to 
tell in the darkness how much of the hawser was still wrapped 
around the screw which, in our deep-laden condition, was a good 
six feet below the surface. 

As Hefford was in charge on the poop when the hawser had 
carried away, the Captain called him a this, a that, and the other. 
"Well miss the tide," he lamented. "Well have to warp back to 
the dockside, and get a diver to go down tomorrow morning to 
free the screw. That'll be another day's demurrage!" 

Then, fixing me with a baleful stare, he said, "There must be 
a Jonah on board!" 

In the meantime I had been examining the broken hawser by 
the light of a hurricane lamp, and, finding it to be rotten, decided 
that a few fathoms of it round the propeller would have no more 
effect than a bundle of straw. It would be gone in less than five 
minutes after we got under way. 

When the Captain had calmed down a bit, I suggested that the 
Engineers should turn the propeller with the hand gear slowly in 
the opposite direction to that in which it had been revolving 
when the rope was caught. 

"But how will we know if it's free?" the Captain said, looking 
worried. 

On an impulse I said, "111 dive down myself then, to feel if it's 
cleared!" 

"What! Can you swim and dive?" 

"I could go down all right with a guideline!" I said. 

"All right, Mister, carry on!" The Old Man was all smiles. He 
knew as well as anyone that the rotten rope was probably not 
dangerous, but he had to do something to "dear his yardarm" in 
case of accident. 

99 



There was no time to waste if we were to get away on the tide, 
so the Engineers turned the propeller in reverse half a dozen 
times. Then we dropped the weighted bight of a handline over 
the stem, drew it up tight under the keel in the vicinity of the 
propeller, and made it fast to the rail on each side. This would 
be the guideline for me to go down on. 

I was now beginning to regret my rash offer. The night was pitch 
dark and bitterly cold, with a strong northwesterly win4 an d 
squalls of sleet driving across the dock. As I peeled off my oilskins, 
sea boots, cap, jacket, guernsey, trousers, and socks, and stood in my 
thick woolen underwear, the wind cut into me like a knife, and I 
realized that I had a cold job on hand. 

But it was out of the question to back out now. All hands and 
the cook were standing by, as interested spectators of something 
unusual. The dinghy was lowered, and made fast to the guideline. 
Two hurricane lanterns were hung out over the side and stern. 
In my underwear, which I hoped might keep me warm, I slid down 
the rope into the dinghy, followed by the Second Mate. 

Hefford bent a lifeline around my waist. 'Til pull you up with 
this if you stay down too long," he said, encouragingly. 

There was no time to lose, so I plopped over the gunwales into 
the water, and held on for a moment, to get my breath. It was all 
that I could do to suppress a yell, as the water was far colder than 
I had thought it would be. My teeth were chattering, but when I 
glanced up and saw the faces of the Captain and all the crew 
watching me over the taffrail, I knew that I would have to go on 
with my rash proposition. 

Taking a deep breath, and grabbing the guideline as low as 
possible, I ducked my head under the water and pulled myself 
down, hand-over-hand, until I touched the tip of one of the pro- 
peller blades. I felt around for the hawser rope end, without 
finding it, until my breath gave out, and I had to let go and return 
to the surface. 

Hefford pulled me into the dinghy, and I heard the Captain 
singing out, "Is she free, Mister?" 

"Not yet," I spluttered. My theory now was that I needed the 
impetus of a dive to get deep enough before losing my breath. I 

100 



went to the bow of the dinghy, feeling that I was blue all over with 
cold. "Pay out plenty of slack/' I muttered to Hefford. 

Then I took a header into the depths, and, touching the screw 
with my outstretched hands and feeling around blindly, I made 
contact by sheer luck with the broken end of the hawser, which 
was draped loosely over the screw blade and riding free. With this 
I shot to the surface and broke water several feet away from the 
dinghy. 

Hefford pushed out an oar and dragged me alongside, hanging 
over it like a wet rag, but with the rope's end still in my hand. He 
hauled me and the rope's end into the dinghy, singing out to the 
men above to send down a line. This he bent to the old hawser and 
told them to haul away. 

I crouched in the bottom of the dinghy, shivering, as Hefford 
sculled it along the side to the short Jacob's Ladder amidships. 
When we reached this, I had recovered sufficiently to climb to the 
deck and rush down to my cabin, where Billy the steward met me 
with a steaming glass of grog. He also had a footbath ready and 
a can of hot water, this being the only bathing facility the Nether 
Holme had to offer. 

While I was thawing out and dressing, the Engineers down be- 
low were turning the propeller slowly with the hand gear, and 
the men on the poop were hauling in the hawser as it was freed. 

Presently the Captain poked his head into my cabin doorway 
and sang out, "Good work, Mister. She's all dear now. You did a 
man's job all right, and thank you very much." 

Hefford came down and joined me in another glass of grog. Just 
as we drained our glasses, the Pier Master sang out through his 
megaphone, "Come ahead with the Nether Holme!" 

Throwing on our greatcoats, we dashed on deck. An hour later 
we were standing down the Bristol Channel into a strong head- 
wind and a choppy sea bound for Bermuda and a warm and 
sunny clime. 

Freeing that hawser had been a cold job and a lucky one, as I 
well knew, for I had made contact with the rope's end by a mere 
fluke in the utter darkness of the water. I had volunteered to do 
it on an impulse, and had carried on through pride and perhaps 

101 



vanity. I might easily have caught my death of cold. It was one 
of those silly things that a young chap offers to do when he's im- 
patient of delays. 

Lundy Island was abeam, and we were headed westwards across 
the Western Ocean, into the teeth of a gale, plunging bows under, 
deep laden as we were, submerged like a half-tide rock, and 
shipping seas fore and aft. My only consolation was that this 
weather was washing the coal dust out of her. 

She was wallowing along, doing all of five knots, just a rusty, 
dirty old tramp; but, now that she was in her element, she had her 
own pride, as every ship has when she gets well under way, free of 
the shore. 



102 



CHAPTER EIGHT 



Excitement in a Collier The S.S. "Nether 
Holme" Bound for Bermuda The Captain's Re- 
tiring Habits Dirty Weather and Flooded Decks 
Securing a Hatch An A.B/S Broken Thigh 
Paddy the Fireman Runs Amok Blood in the 
Stokehold The Captain's Pistol Securing the 
Prisoner Why Men Go to Sea. 



WHEN Captain Roberts set course from Lundy Island for Ber- 
muda, distant some 2,800 miles southwesterly, he retired to the 
steam-filled chartroom, remarking, "Call me when you sight the 
land." 

I thought this was intended to be a joke, but, as the voyage pro- 
ceeded, the Captain remained in the chartroom or in his quarters 
under the poop, and never went on to the bridge while we were in 
wide waters. He left everything to the Mates, but, as a matter of 
routine, we reported to him our noon observations and anything 
unusual. From his prone position on the chartroom settee he was 
sufficiently aware of what was happening, and content to remain in 
the background there or under the poop, alone with his thoughts, 
his rheumatic pains, and a bottle of rum. 

On my first watch, I discovered that only one of our five A.B/S 
was able to steer. He was Perkins, a reliable old salt. The four 

103 



young Welsh fishermen had no idea of handling a wheel, as they 
were used to steering only with a tiller. Apart from that, they 
were handy seamen, and keen to learn. I had to stand by and in- 
struct the two in my watch, while Hefford did the same with the 
two in his watch. Old Perkins also constituted himself an acting 
bosun, and spent hours patiently teaching the green hands to 
"box the compass," by reciting from memory its thirty-two points 
in correct sequence around the full circle. 

When we were three days out of port, the heap of loose coal 
stacked on the after end of Number Two hatch had almost sub- 
sided through the opening we had left in the hatch covers, lead- 
ing down into the coal bunkers. 

I was anxious to have this hatch secured as quickly as possible. 
At the 8 A.M. change of the watch, the glass was still falling, and 
the wind shifted and began to heap up a nasty cross-sea. Leaving 
Hefford at the wheel, I went with the five A.B/s and the carpenter 
along to the hatch to secure it while Hefford brought her head to, 
with the engines at "slow." 

Expecting that she would ship water at any moment, I put two 
of the men to shoveling as much of the loose coal as possible into 
the hatch opening, while with the others I rigged lifelines and got 
the hatches ready to put in position. No sooner were the lifelines 
rigged than she shipped a heavy sea, which swept across the deck, 
taking us off our feet. We narrowly escaped being washed over- 
board, and the hatches along with us. 

Water poured into the bunker, and loose coal washed around 
on the deck. It was all that we could do to hang on to anything 
handy, until she steadied a little. 

Then we got the hatches into position, and battened them 
down, with two tarpaulins and stout wedges. As a further pre- 
caution, we lashed a breakwater of planks across the coamings. In 
the meantime, the Engineers down below had set the bilge pump 
going to clear the water shipped into the bunker. 

Having finished that job, I decided to have a look at Number 
One hatch. I went there with the men, but in the next minute a 
heavy sea crashed on board, filling the welldeck to the top of the 

104 



bulwarks. We hung on as best we could, but our only qualified 
A,B., old Perkins, was caught off balance and swept off his feet 

I made a grab at him, but missed, and thought that the old 
chap had been washed overboard. Then, as the ship freed herself 
somewhat, I saw that he was jammed under the steel ladder leading 
to the midship deck. 

The carpenter and I reached him as the ship took another heavy 
roll to leeward, again flooding the welldeck to our armpits. We 
dung to the ladder, and at the same time ducked under the water 
and grabbed the unconscious seaman to prevent him from being 
swept away. We got his head above water, and I realized that he 
was stunned by a nasty gash in his scalp, where he had made con- 
tact with the ladder. 

The four Welshmen waded to help us. We were all soaking wet, 
and looking like half-drowned rats, but we succeeded with much 
difficulty in carrying the unconscious Perkins to his bunk, through 
water that foamed to our waists as the ship continued to plunge 
and roll like a mad thing. 

Having made sure that everything about the deck was secure, 
I returned to the bridge and joined Hefford. The wind by now 
had settled down to a fresh N.W. gale, and I decided to keep her 
hove to until the weather improved. 

In all this time, the Captain had not stirred from his settee in 
the chartroom. He was supremely confident of the Nether Holme's 
ability to ride through any trouble. I reported to him that a man 
was lying injured in the fo'c'sle. 

Pointing to the Ship Captain's Medical Guide in a bookcase 
secured to the bulkhead, he said, "You and the Second Mate fix 
him up if you can. Call me if you can't manage it. My rheumatics 
are giving me gyp. Lash the old fellow in his bunk, so that he 
can't roll out." 

"I've already done that, sir," I told him. 

"Good, carry on." 

Taking the Medical Guide, which was soggy with steam like 
all the other books and papers in the chartroom I went on to the 
bridge and conferred with Hefford. The weather was now showing 
signs of abating, so I posted the two most intelligent of our four 

105 



remaining seamen at the wheel, with instructions to keep her 
head on, and to call me if they sighted any vessel or anything un- 
usual. Then I provided myself with bandages, iodine, and the 
emergency bottle of brandy, and went accompanied by Hefford 
to the fo'c'sle. 

Old Perkins had regained consciousness, and was groaning with 
pain. "My leg's broke!" he said, pointing to his right thigh. We 
bandaged his head, then examined the leg. One glance was enough 
to show that the main thighbone was broken, about six inches 
above the knee. I gave him a stiff nip of brandy, and called the 
carpenter to make splints. Hefford studied the Medical Guide, 
while I hastened to the chartroom and reported the situation to 
the Captain. 

"Ah," he said, "that's serious!" He sat up on the settee, and held 
his hands out in front of him. The knuckles were swollen with 
arthritis. He stood up, groaned, and sat down again. "Oogh, Mis- 
ter, I think it will be better if you and the Second Mate can manage 
to set that leg without me. You have younger fingers than I have! 
Give him a double tot of grog, then fish and lash his thigh, the 
same as you would a sprung topmast or jibboom. Be sure you set 
it straight, Mister! Feel it with your fingers, and lash the splints 
right with plenty of bandages. And look lively before it starts to 
swell! Keep him lashed in his bunk so that he can't move, and tell 
Billy to give him three tots of grog a day to ease the pain. His 
shipmates will look after him. Report to me when it's done, and 
enter it in the logbook." 

He sank back on his settee and closed his eyes. I got additional 
bandages, and sang out to Chips to look lively with the splints. 
When these were ready, Hefford and I set the broken thigh to the 
best of our ability. Perkins, his courage fortified by the internal 
anesthetic, bore the pain stoically, but then suddenly went limp 
and mercifully became unconscious as we pushed and pulled the 
broken ends of the bone together, feeling them grate beneath the 
flesh. Having no real medical knowledge, we could use only our 
common sense, and trust to luck and to our experience in seaman- 
ship to make a good job of it. 

When all the lashings on the patient were made fast, he re- 

106 



covered consciousness, and we left him as comfortable as possible. 
I reported to the Captain, and made the entry in the log book as 
he had ordered. 

Having now only four A.B.'s two in each watch, and one of 
them at the wheel Hefford and I for the rest of the voyage did 
some work on deck in the daytime to make her presentable for 
arrival at Bermuda. The Nether Holme plugged along in finer 
weather, doing 160 miles a day. 

Billy the steward, who was also the cook, served us a breakfast 
every morning of finnan haddock, which was slightly "off." One 
morning, when Hefford relieved me on the bridge, after having his 
breakfast, I went aft for mine, and found that Hefford had left a 
note on my place "See Hebrews XIII, v. 8." 

Among the steam-dampened books in the chartroom was a tat- 
tered copy of the Bible. On looking up the text, I discovered that 
it read: ". . . the same yesterday, and today and foreverl" 

A few days later, both Hefford and I came out in a white rash, 
which was very itchy. Consulting The Ship Captain's Medical 
Guide, we discovered that our symptoms corresponded with those 
of Nettle Rash, which could have various causes, one of them being 
the eating of too much bad fish! 

I showed this to the Captain, who grunted, "Well, throw the 
fish overboard!" This I did, much to Billy's disgust. We treated 
ourselves with lotions of Goulard's Extract, and doses of bismuth 
powder, and in a couple of days we were cured. 

One morning, when we were fifteen days out, I heard a com- 
motion forward. One of the trimmers, Paddy OTlaherty by name, 
a Liverpool Irishman, had refused duty and retired to the f o'c'sle. 
The second Engineer, Don Cameron, a smallish man, but game for 
anything, had followed O'Flaherty a gigantic fellow and, with 
a mixture of threats and gentle persuasion, had induced him to 
return to the stokehold. 

A few minutes later, when I happened to be on the bridge, I 
heard yells in the stokehold, and saw the engineroom crew scram- 

107 



bling in terror up the iron ladder through the fiddley to the deck. 
They were singing out, "Help!" and "Murder!" 

The Chief Engineer and Third Engineer came out of their 
quarters on the run, and I sprang down from the bridge to join 
them. One of the firemen said excitedly, "Paddy O'Flaherty hit 
Mr. Cameron on the head with a shovel, and he's done him in!" 

We peered down into the stokehold, and saw Cameron lying near 
one of the furnace doors, with blood pouring from a gash in his 
head, while OTlaherty was striding up and down, brandishing his 
shovel, and singing out, "I'll do the lot of you inl" 

The Chief Engineer, though an elderly man, did not hesitate. 
"Come on, men," he said, "Follow me!" 

He went down into the stokehold, followed by the Third 
Engineer and myself and two of the firemen. "Drop yon shovel, 
mon," said the Chief, firmly, to OTlaherty. "Have ye gone daft?" 

"HI brain the lot o'ye!" bellowed OTlaherty, swinging the 
shovel around his head, with a wild gleam in his eye. At this 
moment we received reinforcements, as Percy Hefford and two of 
the Welsh seamen, followed by some of the firemen and trimmers, 
swarmed down the ladder to join us. 

"Take him, then," said the Chief. We surged forward. The 
wonder is that someone was not decapitated, but Paddy's rage 
suddenly evaporated, as he realized that he was outnumbered ten 
to one. He dropped the shovel and said, calmly, "I give inl" 

With a little tactful persuasion, Paddy climbed to the deck, and 
went quietly forward to his quarters. In the meantime, the Second 
Engineer, who had been lying unconscious, came to. I got bandages 
and brandy, and dressed his wound. We helped him up the ladder 
and into his bunk. 

During this period of excitement, Captain Roberts was in his 
saloon under tie poop, taking a nap. He was apprised first by 
Billy the steward, then by the Chief Engineer and myself, what 
had occurred. 

"Very well, then," he said. "I'll inquire into this. Bring OTla- 
herty here." 

We went out on deck, prepared to use force if necessary, and 

108 



stood by, while a message was sent forward to OTlaherty that 
the Captain wanted him in the saloon. 

He came aft almost at once, with a crazy grin on his face. The 
Chief Engineer and I were waiting for him at the break of the 
poop. We escorted him into the saloon. Hefford had gone to the 
bridge, to check the course, but, as it was a fine and clear morning, 
with nothing in sight, he left a seaman at the wheel, and presently 
joined us. The Third Engineer had gone down below into the 
stokehold. 

As we entered the saloon, we saw that the Captain had put on 
his somewhat ill-fitting uniform jacket, with its four mildewed 
gold stripes on his sleeves. He was seated at the head of the saloon 
table, with the logbook and pen and ink in front of him. Alongside 
these was a huge, old-fashioned heavy revolver. 

O'Flaherty swaggered into the saloon, and stood grinning and 
staring insolently at the Captain. "Take that grin off your face 
and that cap off your head when you come in here/' said the Cap- 
tain, picking up the revolver. 

Paddy obeyed both orders promptly, and the Captain continued, 
"If you give any more trouble I'll drill a hole in you with this 
pistoL You've committed a very serious offence, attempted murder. 
What have you to say for yourself?" 

"Upon my soul, I didn't mean to hurt him, sirl" 

"You admit you struck the Second Engineer with the shovel?" 

"Yes, soix, but only on the spur of the moment!" 

The Captain said to me, "Enter it in the logbook, Mister Mate. 
Charge of attempted murder. Prisoner admits he did it. Says he 
meant no harm." 

I took the pen and wrote this at the Captain's dictation. We all 
signed it. Then the Captain said, "Put him in irons and lock him 
up until we reach port!" 

He drew a pair of handcuffs from his pocket and passed them 
to Hefford. Meekly, the culprit held out his wrists; but years of 
shoveling coal had thickened the muscles of Paddy's naturally 
big arms to such an extent that the "bracelets" would not clasp. 

"Never mind the irons, then," growled the Captain. "Lock him 
up and keep him on bread and water. If he gives any trouble, put 

109 



a hole through him." He handed the revolver to me, saying, "Be 
careful with this gun, Mister. It has a hair trigger and dum-dum 
bullets. I you have to shoot him, aim low. Now, take the scoundrel 
away out o' my sight!" 

Hefford and the Chief Engineer took O'Flaherty by the arms and 
led him out, while I followed closely behind them, holding the 
pistol with extreme caution, pointed to the deck, for I had never 
handled firearms in my life, and I certainly didn't want to kill or 
injure anyone accidentally! 

As I reached the door, the Captain whispered hoarsely to me, 
"The damn thing's not loaded. You'll have to bluff him, like I did!" 

With this secret information, I felt greatly relieved. We marched 
the culprit along the deck, and halted at the door of the carpenter's 
shop. I kept Paddy covered while Hefford and the carpenter 
cleared everything out of the shop, which had iron bulkheads, 
deckhead, and deck, and an iron door with a small glassed port 
in it. 

This was Paddy's prison. Hefford put into it a straw bed, a 
covered wooden tub, a pail of fresh water, and a supply of ship's 
biscuits. On seeing these preparations, Paddy suddenly began to 
struggle violently. He yelled, with splendid defiance, "Shoot me! 
Go on, shoot me, you murderers! They'll hang me in Bermuda 
anyway!" 

As he was wrenching himself free from the Chief Engineer and 
Hefford, I clubbed the pistol and tapped him smartly on the head 
with it. This dazed him for a moment, and we pushed him through 
the door, and locked it. 

A few minutes later there was a crash, as Paddy broke the glass 
port with the heel of his hobnailed boot. 

For several hours he howled insults and hurled biscuits through 
the porthole at anyone who passed, and kept this up at intervals 
during the day and night until we reached the Bermuda Islands 
two days later, after a passage of seventeen days from Barry Dock. 

The Bermudas consist of one island and a cluster of islets, far 
out in the Atlantic, a thousand miles from the American shore, 
in the latitude of South Carolina, with a delightfully warm climate, 

110 




A typical tramp steamer. 




Western Ocean tramp in heavy weather. 



Acme photo 




Cunard liner S.S. C aroma, built 1904 




/! , j- -, 

Carpathia, built 1903. 



Cunard Line photo 



tempered by tie ocean breezes. We moored at the Naval Dockyard 
in the port of Hamilton, a British naval base. 

The Captain went ashore to enter the ship and to make the ar- 
rangements to hand O'Flaherty over to the police. During the after- 
noon, two policemen arrived, in immaculate whites, and, being 
warned that the prisoner was violent and perhaps insane, called on 
the naval Dockyard Patrol of eight hefty bluejackets to assist them. 

When the door of his cell was opened, Paddy threw himself to 
the deck, roaring, "If you're going to take me to jail, you'll have 
to carry me there." 

This ultimatum presented no difficulties to the patrol. Obtain- 
ing a large capstan bar, they lashed him to it by his wrists and 
ankles. Then they shouldered the bar and marched him off to 
the calaboose. 

He was tried a few days later by a civil court, and sentenced to 
three months' imprisonment, with hard labor, after which he was 
to be repatriated to Britain at the expense of the owners of the 
Nether Holme. 

The Second Engineer made a good recovery from his scalp 
wound. Doctors examined the fractured thigh of Able Seaman 
Perkins, and said that we had made a fairly good job of setting 
it, but that he would have to lie up for some weeks in hospital 
before being fit to work again. He would probably walk with a 
limp for the rest of his life. He was therefore paid off, and arrange- 
ments made for his eventual return to his home port. 

Such were the hazards of life in a tramp steamer, in those days 
when steam was finally ousting sail on the world's cargo routes, 
in the era of the twilight of sail. The little steamers were often 
rusty rattletraps, ugly and dirty in comparison with the glorious 
tall-sparred wind-driven flyers they were replacing on the world's,, 
waterways; yet they had a drab pride of their own, for the men 
who served in them had the zeal of all sailors to win through to 
whatever destination fate and the owners decreed for them, in 
voyages to ports near or remote, with the cargoes essential to their 
country's prosperity. 

Though the events that happened in them were certainly not 

111 



of worldshaking importance, and seldom reported in the news- 
papers, those events were lively enough for the men who were 
involved in them, since every ship's company is a little world in 
itself, within the circle of the sea and sky on the wide oceans. 
Those men carried on with their work, usually in discomfort, and 
often at peril of life and limb, not for honor and glory, and cer- 
tainly not for high financial reward. 

Most of them had first gone to sea impelled by a love of ad- 
venture, a desire to know what lay beyond the horizons and to 
be away from the cramped spaces and restricted movements of 
life on shore. They kept on going to sea partly from an ingrained 
sense of duty and discipline, but chiefly from the force of habit; 
for, as they grew older, their chosen profession was the only one 
they knew: yet, with all its disadvantages, poor rewards, and risks, 
they would not have exchanged it for any other calling. 



112 



CHAPTER NINE 




Heyday of Coal Burning Steamers The 
Humble but Necessary Colliers Able Seaman 
Stanley My First Voyage in the North Atlantic 
We Sight the Beautiful Sisters A Gale off 
Sable Island Drifting to a Lee Shore The Gut 
of Canso Icy Ordeal at Cape Tormentine The 
Cape Race Track Mid-Atlantic Hurricane 
My Worst Voyage. 



FOR ten days the Nether Holme lay at Hamilton, Bermuda, in 
fine warm weather, discharging the cargo in leisurely fashion with 
the labor of Negroes. The Captain made friends and spent all his 
time ashore, keeping well out of the way of the black dust that 
smothered the ship, and leaving everything to me and to HefEord 
to attend to in his absence. 

Hefford and I enjoyed a swim every evening in the harbor, and 
strolled ashore for whatever recreations were available there 
mainly drinking in naval canteens and swapping yarns with jun- 
ior naval officers. 

At that time (1906) practically all steamers, including naval 
vessels, were coal burners. There were few, if any, oil burners. 
Naval and mercantile marine movement depended on the avail- 

113 



ability of bunker coal brought in colliers, from coal producing 
countries, to ports of call and strategic points where no coal was 
locally produced. 

Britain had by far the biggest navy in the world equal in ton- 
nage to that of any other two powers combined and by far the 
biggest mercantile marine. Her sea power was based to a large ex- 
tent on the excellent quality of steaming coal available for bunk- 
ering in her home ports, and transported in her colliers to coal- 
ing stations, along all the main sea routes. The colliers of that pe- 
riod, like the oil tankers of fifty years later, were as numerous as 
the vessels they served with the main requisite of mechanical 
propulsion. 

The bunkers of steamers were insatiable maws; but "coaling 
ship" that is, filling the bunkers was a grimy operation, ex- 
tremely inconvenient, especially in large passenger vessels, as no 
method could be devised of keeping the clouds of fine black dust, 
rising from the hatches, from settling on the decks and penetrat- 
ing to every nook and cranny in the ship. 

The grime was at its worst in colliers, which carried coal not 
only in bunkers but also in their holds, and had to endure the 
grit and grime of both loading and discharging coal. Steamers of 
all kinds depended on the colliers, and on the man-killing labor 
of the firemen and trimmers sweating down below in their stoke- 
holds a work more appropriate for Satan's imps than for human 
beings yet coal seemed to us to be the permanent requisite of 
steam propulsion at sea, and the smudgy symbol of the final tri- 
umph of machinery over the glory of sail. 

We had no conception that the reign of the coal burning steam- 
ers would be short in the perspective of history, and that they 
would soon be replaced by oil burners, and the colliers by tankers, 
with a great gain in the ease of refueling and in the saving of labor 
down below. 

So the pattern of life changes at sea, as on land, and presumably 
ships powered by atomic energy will some day make the oil burn- 
ers obsolete; but, whatever the power of propulsion, ships must 
still be steered, and North, South, East, and West will remain . . . 

114 



When our cargo was almost discharged, the Captain came 
aboard, and I asked him if arrangements had been made for bal- 
lasting. "It won't be necessary," he said. "We haven't far to go to 
the next port, and she's ballasted anyway with her engines, bunk- 
ers, water tanks, and bilgewater. She'll steer all right. Ballast is 
expensive here/' 

The Nether Holme was high in the water, her propeller and rud- 
der partly exposed to view; but the Captain's faith in his ship was 
serene. 

On November 6, we cleared out from Bermuda in fine warm 
weather, and, after skirting the outlying reefs and shoals, set course 
for Cape Canso in Nova Scotia, enroute to our next destination, 
Cape Tormentine, on the New Brunswick shore of Northumber- 
land Strait, in Eastern Canada. 

Cape Canso is approximately 820 miles almost due north of the 
Bermudas. We expected to make it comfortably in five days. This 
was all new ground to me, my very first voyage into the North 
Atlantic proper offshore from New York, Boston, and Halifax, 
cutting across the main routes of transatlantic shipping which in 
later years were to become very familiar to me. 

I could scarcely have made my debut in these waters in less 
stylish circumstances than as Mate of the S.S. Nether Holme with 
her rusty slab sides and her screw and rudder half out of the water 
as she churned along, topheavy and cranky in her steering, an 
ungainly old tramp, without a cargo, minding her own business, 
going somewhere from somewhere nobody cared where, except 
those who were in her, and her owners in faraway Maryport, 
Cumberland. 

At Bermuda was had taken on a Negro coal-trimmer, to replace 
Paddy OTlaherty, and a veteran A.B. to replace poor old Perkins. 
Our new hand on deck and on the bridge was Johnny Stanley, a 
naval pensioner, aged sixty-five, who was working his passage to 
England. He had served fifty years in the British Navy, some of 
his early years as a seaman in the old "wooden walls" under sail. 

Johnny had joined the Navy as a boy in 1855, during the 
Crimean War, and had served in famous old Ships of the Line, 
including HM.S. Duke of Wellington, under Admiral Sir Charles 

115 



Napier. What a link with history, and what a seaman he was, 
and what yarns he could tell: "I've seen men strung up to the yard- 
arm," he said, "many a time, whipped up and away they go; and 
I've seen 'em keelhauled, too. Them were the days, sir. Eight 
hundred men on the gun decks, four to a gun, and give the henemy 
a broadside o' fifty guns, laying alongside 'im! I been in every port 
in the world, sir, damn near, and there's no place like 'omel" 

Johnny's contempt for steamers, and especially for the SJS. 
Nether Holme, was unlimited. He was in my watch, and I en- 
joyed yarning with him. "This old rattletrap," he said, "with her 
steering rods riding on the bulwarks and all, she'll finish up run- 
ning aground, mark my words. She's top'eavy and she'll turn turtle 
if we run into a gale where we're going. Cape Canso we're bound 
for, ain't we, Mister? I know it, and the Gut o' C&nso, too, in 
Northumberland Strait. I was there, forty years ago, come next 
Christmas, working out o' Halifax, Nova Scotia, in one of 'er 
Majesty's surveying vessels, making the Hadmiralty Charts, and 
I know all them parts, Mister, like the palm o' me 'and. Ever been 
there, Mister, at this time o' the year?" 

"No,"Isaid."NotyetI" 

"Well, Mister, we'll run into fogs, gales, ice, and cold weather 
to freeze the ears off a brass monkey, before we sight Cape Canso 
at this time o* year, if we don't pile up on Sable Island mean- 
whiles. They say there's three places to keep away from 'ell, 'ull 
and 'alifax" and I bin in two of 'em, so far, by which I mean 'ull 
and 'alifax. This is my last v'yage before the mast, Mister, and I 
'ope I don't finish up in 'ell, or in Davy Jones's locker, which is the 
same placel" 

Warned by Johnny's cheerful predictions of disaster, I went to 
the chartroom, got down the soggy charts of Nova Scotia and 
Northumberland Strait, and, spreading them on the table, studied 
our course. I asked the Captain, who was redlining as usual on 
his settee, if he had firsthand knowledge of our destination. 

"Been there dozens of times," he said, nonchalantly, "in both 
sail and steam! I'm not green like you young fellers/' Heaving 
himself off his couch with a groan, he pored over the chart with 
me, pointing out its features. "In a few days on this northerly 

116 



course/' he said, "we'll be out o' the fine weather and into the 
North Atlantic winter, which means gales or fogs, or one after 
the other and bitter cold. We'll be standing across the track of 
eastbound and westbound shipping coming out of New York, 
Boston, and Halifax, or bound there from Europe, thick as bees 
at the door of a hive. Keep your eyes peeled in fog or dirty weather, 
give way to sail, including drifters of the fishing fleets, and to 
any steamer on your starboard bow. Go slow in fog and keep 
your steam whistle going. Take sights when you can, because 
you mightn't be able to get 'em after another day or two. Watch 
your dead reckoning and allow for the Gulf Stream, and give a 
wide berth to Sable Island, where many a fine ship has been piled 
up by lazy, incompentent, or drunken Mates, while the Master 
happened to be below. If that's all clear, Mister, carry on, and 
call me when you sight Cape Canso!" 

Having cleared his own yardarm with these comprehensive in- 
structions, the Captain returned to his settee. Next day, the wind 
began to rise, and the glass to fall, and I discussed the situation 
a little anxiously with Percy Hefford. The Nether Holme was 
steering crankily, and shuddering at times alarmingly when her 
propeller was temporarily out of the water. We got a sight of the 
sun on the fourth day out from Bermuda, but then the sky clouded 
over. 

During that day we sighted several vessels, eastbound and west- 
bound athwart our course. In late afternoon, there was a sight 
I could never forget, as a large liner, westbound, appeared on our 
starboard bow, with long plumes of smoke pouring from her two 
funnels. As she stood across our track, a mile ahead, doing all of 
eighteen knots, she became a blaze of light, on all her decks and 
in all her portholes, as the electric lights were switched on gradu- 
ally throughout the ship, so that she seemed to us like a magical 
apparition. 

Hefford and I stood together on our ramshackle bridge and 
easily identified her as the twin screw Cunard liner Caronia, the 
pride of the Western Ocean, then in her second year of service. 
She was of nearly 20,000 tons gross, carrying 2,600 passengers and 

117 



a crew of 700. Hefford and I looked at her with awe and longing. 
She seemed so far beyond our hopes and dreams. 

At that moment we sighted another liner, coming up on our 
port bow, also a blaze of lights. She was the Caronia's sister-ship, 
the Carmania, eastward bound, out of New York for Liverpool. 
They were two of the most graceful passenger liners ever built, 
and were known as "the pretty sisters." I had seen them both at 
different times in port at Liverpool, but never expected to see 
them together in midocean, meeting at dusk. We lit our oil naviga- 
tion lights, and the Carmania passed astern of us, quite near. 

Hefford remarked, "Makes you envious, doesn't it? Wonder if 
we'll ever get into anything like that? Must be a wonderful life 
in them!" Then he continued, "The Germans have just taken the 
Blue Riband from the Etruria with the Kaiser Wilhelm II, 
but Cunard will give 'em a shake-up soon, with the two new 
30,000-tonners now being built." 

"I've heard of them," I said. "One launched on the Clyde and 
one on the Tyne, sister-ships." 

"The one on the Clyde's nearly ready," said Hefford. "She was 
launched last June, and I've seen her in Brown's shipyards. She's 
gigantic! Four screws, four funnels, and they say she'll do twenty- 
five knots. Seems fantastic, doesn't it?" 

"Yes," I said. "It does seem fantastic, in fact unbelievable. Did 
you hear what her name will be?" 

"Lusitania" Hefford sighed. "I'd give my soul-case to get a 
chance in a big modern ship like thatl " 

Next day, our old rattletrap ran into a howling norwesterly 
gale. In her light condition she refused to steer, and fell off into 
the trough of the sea. The temperature dropped to several de- 
grees below freezing point. As we lay rolling and lurching, the 
icy spray froze on her upper works, adding top weight that se- 
riously aggravated her cranky condition. 

The gale increased, and we had neither headway nor steering 
way* We estimated that our position was fifty miles norwest of 
Sable Island. We were drifting on to a lee shore. 

The Captaixi did not stir from his settee in the chartroom, but 

118 



his anxiety was obvious. Both welldecks were frequently flooded 
with icy water. It was an ordeal to wade either to the poop or 
thefo'c'sle. 

Hefford and I remained in the midships deckhouse, warming 
ourselves a little at the galley stove, when we were off watch. All 
the members of the crew, ill-clad for such weather, garbed them- 
selves in improvised overcoats of gunnysacks. The only warm 
place in the ship was in the stokehold, but how the men down 
below managed to keep the engines turning even at dead slow was 
a mystery. The rolling and lurching of the ship made it almost im- 
possible for them to stand and shovel coal yet somehow they 
did it. 

For thirty-six hours the storm raged, and we now estimated 
that we were very near Sable Island. We had taken soundings, 
but they were next to useless for fixing our position, as the ocean 
floor, between Sable Island and Nova Scotia, is a fairly level bank. 

At daylight on the second morning we sighted a long line of 
breakers, which we judged to be the outlying westerly shoals. She 
had drifted clear, but it had been a dose shave! 

"I told you that she'd ride it out," commented the Captain. 
"She's a lucky old ship. Carry on, the glass is rising. When the 
weather eases, round the island to the eastward, and set course for 
the Gut o' Canso. Call me when you sight the land!" 

Hefford and I, and most of the crew, were almost dropping 
with exhaustion, cold, and lack of sleep, but we got bearings, as 
the weather moderated, and then stood up into the Gut of Canso, 
the very narrow strait between Nova Scotia and Cape Breton 
Island. 

Arrived there, we let go the anchor in the lee of the land, in 
Chedabucto Bay. The Captain had decided that all hands, includ- 
ing himself, were in need of a good night's sleep. 

Next morning the weather was clear, but the temperature had 
dropped to twenty degres below freezing point. The engineers 
had to thaw out the fresh water pump before we could have morn- 
ing coffee. 

Then we broke the ice out of the windlass, hove up the anchor, 

119 



and proceeded on our way through the narrow Gut, and westerly 
along Northumberland Strait (between Prince Edward Island and 
Nova Scotia) to our destination, the harbor of Cape Tormentine, 
in New Brunswick. 

In these narrow waters, the Captain came on to the bridge, 
acting as his own pilot as we passed Pictou Island, and threaded 
our way slowly among the shoals. He was suffering intensely 
from his rheumatism, but there was no doubt of his nautical 
ability in this or any other difficult passage. 

On November 14, eight days out from Bermuda, we arrived at 
Cape Tonnentine, and found that the habor was nothing but 
a stone jetty projecting a mile into the sea, with a "J" shaped 
wooden pier at the end. 

A tall, gaunt man with a voice like a foghorn came off in a boat, 
and introduced himself as Mr. Maude, pilot, harbormaster, mag- 
istrate, registrar of births, marriages, and deaths, postmaster, 
mayor, and general storekeeper of the township of Tonnentine, 
which consisted of about 200 log cabins, a sawmill and a lobster 
canning factory. 

Everything on the shore was covered in deep snow. The Captain 
and Mr. Maude swallowed two noggins of rum, and then pro- 
ceeded to put the Nether Holme into harbor. Twice she jibbed, 
and we had to take a round turn out of her; but the third time, 
with the assistance of a little more rum and much strong language, 
she bumped around the end of the pier and warped into a berth. 

"Put all your moorings out, boys," shouted Maude. "It blows 
like hell around here." With that, he and the Captain staggered 
off toward the town in great good humor. Like everything else on 
board, our mooring lines were mostly shakings, so I had the an- 
chor cable unshackled and put on shore as a safeguard. 

Next morning, we began loading matchwood planks from rail- 
way wagons. Lumbermen did the stowage and our four Welsh 
AJB.'s drove the winches. They were suffering from the intense 
cold, and awkward through inexperience, but with some instruc- 
tion managed fairly well. 

120 



On the very first day, a derrick guy snapped, allowing a derrick 
to swing round with a crash and carry away the swifters of the 
foremast rigging. Luckily they went in the rusty splices, just above 
the rigging screws, within reach of the deck. They would have to 
be repaired before we put to sea again. 

Our old naval pensioner volunteered to do the sailorizing, but, 
in the extreme cold, I considered it would be a cruelty to allow 
him to do it. Hefford and I therefore set to work. We turned the 
broken ends of wire up, and seized them; but, with the tempera- 
ture touching zero, and our fingers frostbitten, it was an agony, 
and the job took us several days and several bottles of rum to 
complete. 

Bitterly cold norwesterly gales, laden with sleet, frequently 
heaped the waters of Northumberland Strait into running seas, 
which swept over the pier and the ship, coating everything with 
ice. Then the hatchcovers had to be put on, and work discontin- 
ued, until the squalls passed. We had also to put on the hatchcov- 
ers when darkness fell and work ceased, about 4 P.M. The lumber- 
men showed wonderful skill and endurance in handling and stow- 
ing the ice covered planks allowing space, as they said, for the 
cargo to expand when it thawed in the Gulf Stream, so that it 
would not "bust our sides." 

Through this precaution, or some miscalculation of the Nether 
Holme's capacity, the holds were all filled to the deckheads, while 
a considerable stack of the timber remained on the pier. 

The Captain, who had obtained accommodation for himself on 
shore, strolled out to the pier and said to me, "Fill her up with 
deck cargo to the level of the bulwarks, Mister, and lash it all 
secure. We are allowed that amount of deck cargo at this time 
o' the year." He then strolled shorewards, smoking a cigar. 

The lumbermen stowed the extra cargo on deck, and we lashed 
it down with wire falls stretched athwartships and fore and aft, 
and hove taut with the winches. 

This was a complicated operation, as access had to be left to 
the doors at the break of the poop and the fo'c'sle, and lifelines 
rigged on top of the lumber for the crew's transit fore and aft. 

121 



The task was made no easier when heavy snow fell, covering 
everything several inches deep. 

When all was secure, there was still one wagonload of frozen 
matchboards on the pier. "Dump it on top," said the agent. "Let 
it go over the side and collect insurance for heavy weather!" 

"Not without Captain's orders," I told him. He fetched Cap- 
tain Roberts, who came on board in a fuddled condition, and 
loftily said, "Take the lot, Mister. Lash it welll" Then he went 
to the chartroom and fell asleep. 

I piled the extra lumber on the afterdeck, and lashed it down 
with some old rope; but Hefford and I knew perfectly well that 
it could not be expected to hold if we shipped heavy seas abeam. 
I reported to the Captain when it was done, but asked him to 
inspect the work in the presence of the agent, as I felt I could not 
take the responsibility if the surplus loading shifted, or was lost. 

He at once saw my point, and staggering out into the blizzard, 
inspected the lashings and said, "Very good, Mister Mate, if we 
lose it overboard in heavy weather, it won't be your fault." 

An hour later, we cast off moorings, and, with the help of Mr. 
Maude, got the ship out and headed eastwards down the Strait. 
Our destination was the port of Sydney, on Cape Breton Island, 
for bunkers, a run of some 300 miles, rounding Cape North, in 
Cabot Strait. 

A few hours after we had left port, a blinding snowstorm devel- 
oped. Our steam whistle and sounding machine were both frozen 
solid, so we anchored for twelve hours until the weather cleared. 
The snow now covered our deck cargo twelve inches thick. Icicles 
hung in the rigging and coated the masts and derricks, the winches, 
the steering quadrant, the iron steering rods, the taffrail, the 
bridge, and everything else to which they could cling. 

It was as well that we anchored. When the weather cleared, we 
found ourselves within half-a-mile of the rocky shore, and ten 
miles north of our course line! A nice miscalculation in narrow 
waters! 

Investigation revealed that the spirit in the steering compass 
122 



was clogged and almost frozen. We thawed it out in the galley, 
got some bearings, hove up the anchor, and carried on. 

Presently we heard the Pictou fog gun. A mist closed in, but 
we sighted the island, and got our bearings. The weather con- 
turned bitterly cold and foggy, but we felt our way along, and 
made Sydney without mishap two days later. 

When we berthed under the coal tips, the Captain and Chief 
Engineer went ashore "to see about the coal." This involved con- 
siderable conviviality. They returned on board, decidedly un- 
steady on their pins, four hours after the Nether Holme was ready 
for sea. 

We cast off and got away. The Captain's final instructions to me 
before he rolled into bed were, "Put her on the course for Fast- 
net, Mister, and lemme know f ow she makes it!" 

It was December 2 when we cleared out of Sydney. The naviga- 
tion from there to Fastnet Rock (off the S.W. corner of Ireland) 
is by way of the Cape Race route and the Newfoundland Banks, 
difficult enough in winter even for experienced navigators 
equipped with perfect instruments and all the mechanical and 
scientific aids of radio, radar, and meterological information; but 
we in the old Nether Holme had none of these aids. 

Neither Hefford nor I had been on this route. The Captain 
appeared to be either indifferent to our worries, fatalistic, or un- 
duly confident that we would be able to avoid collisions, ice, or 
groundings in the thick fog that blanketed us as soon as we 
reached the Newfoundland Banks. He retired to his cabin under 
the poop, suffering severely from rheumatism. I visited him there 
at the change of each watch, and reported our progress. His in- 
variable comment was, "Carry on, Mister!" 

Fortunately, westerly gales sprang up, and the fog cleared. In 
these gales the ship did some fancy rolling, but the high following- 
seas helped her on. The snow melted, the icides thawed, and visi- 
bility was fairly good; but seas broke over our deck-cargo abeam, 
and at such times the Nether Holme seemed rather like a sub- 
marine than a ship, as only her "three islands" were above water. 

When we were in mid-ocean the gale reached hurricane force, 

123 



and we took a purler over the stern. I decided to put her about 
and heave to, but, just at that moment, she took a terrific lurch 
to starboard, and the surplus cargo on the after deck shifted and 
jammed against the steering rods on the starboard bulwarks. 

Old Johnny Stanley, who was at the wheel, sang out, "The steer- 
ing gear's jammed, sir!" In the next moment the Nether Holme 
was in the trough of the seas, wallowing helpless, as gigantic 
combers crashed on her from abeam. 

I had no fear that she would founder, even if the hatches were 
stove in, for with her cargo of lumber she was unsinkable; but 
it was possible that she would capsize or that the deckhouses would 
be stove in or carried away. 

Darkness was coming on. From the bridge I could see that the 
lashings of the surplus deck-cargo were holding, but the timber 
had piled itself underneath them on the starboard side, giving 
her a list as well as jamming the steering rods. 

The carpenter and I, taking an axe each, and with lifelines 
knotted around our waists, crawled down onto the welldeck, and 
hacked away at the rope lashings until they parted. This released 
the load, which slid over the side and floated away as she righted 
herself; but she continued to lay beam, on to the mountainous 
combers which crashed on her with terrifying force. 

The steering gear was still jammed. The rods, badly bent be- 
tween the fairleads, were immovable. In theory it might have 
been possible to bring her head to the seas by working the hand 
steering gear on the poop; but seas were crashing on to the poop, 
and in practice no man could have stood there unless he were 
very securely lashed. 

I therefore decided to try to knock the pins out of the fairleads 
along the bulwarks, to let the rods ride loose. 

Waiting for a relative smooth, I crawled over the deck-cargo to 
the lee side, and, holding on to the cargo falls, knocked the pins 
out with a topmaul, and hastily retired before the next dollop 
crashed on board. 

To my great relief, I saw that the rods were riding free, and, 
before I could reach the bridge, old Johnny Stanley was already 

124 



bringing her head to the seas, and she rode out the gale without 
further damage. 

Thirteen days after leaving Sydney, we made the Fastnet Light. 
The Captain came often on to the bridge while we proceeded 
through St. George's Channel and the Irish Sea, in blusterous 
weather. One night, as I came off watch after four hours in driv- 
ing sleet on the bridge, he said to me, "Go into my cabin, Mister, 
and you'll find I've left a pair of dry socks for you on the table, 
to warm your feetl" 

Puzzled, I went to his cabin, and found that there was nothing 
on his table except a bottle of rum and a glass. This was the "pair 
of socks" just his little joke. 

A few days before Christmas of 1906, we docked at the timber 
wharf at Govan on the Clyde. So ended my first crossing of the 
North Atlantic, in the icy latitudes; and, although I have made 
many hundreds of voyages in those latitudes since then, that trip 
in the old tramp Nether Holme was one of the hardest of them all. 



125 



CHAPTER TEN 



The Payoff from the "Nether Holme" I Need 
Two Days More Seatime Percy Hefford's Gen- 
erous Gesture A Glasgow Music Hall Hulla- 
baloo in the Fo'c'sle A Policeman's Caution 
Launch of the "Lusitania" and "Mauretania" 
Able Seaman Stanley Signs off Working My 
Passage to Swansea My Time in, to the Day 
The Master Mariner's Examination A Tribute 
to Tramps. 



PERCY Hefford and I both intended to ask for our discharge at 
Glasgow. We had had more than a bellyful of the old Nether 
Holme. Hefford had got his full time in as Second Mate, with a 
week or two over, and was now entitled to sit for his First Mate's 
examination. But, on making a careful calculation, I realized 
with dismay that I was two days short of my sea time required to 
entitle me to sit for the Master Mariner's examination. 

The voyage having ended at Glasgow, everyone would be auto- 
matically paid off, with the option of being signed on again at the 
Captain's discretion. He suggested that both Hefford and I should 
sign on again. He knew that he had two hardworking young Mates 
who were sober and attentive to their duties, and he did not want 
to lose us. 

126 



As soon as the ship berthed, I went ashore to the Board o Trade 
office to seek advice. I asked the B.O.T. official if there was any 
way by which I could get in my two days' needed sea time with- 
out engaging for a voyage which might take many months. 

"That's easy," he said. "The Nether Holme will be going from 
here to Swansea to load coal. She will be two or three days on the 
passage there. Stay in her, and take your discharge at Swansea in- 
stead of Glasgow! If the Captain will agree to that, you'll have got 
your full sea time inl" 

Returning to the ship, I put this suggestion to Captain Roberts. 
He said, "All right, you can take your payoff at Swansea, if Hef- 
ford will do the samel" 

I conferred with Percy, who had already packed his gear and 
was ready to collect his pay and go ashore next day to catch the 
train to his home at Rugby. It was clear that the Captain wanted 
to retain our services in port at Glasgow, while the cargo was 
being discharged, and then for working the ship to Swansea, with- 
out the bother of finding two new officers. 

Unselfishly, Hefford agreed to stay in the ship with me. That 
was the kind of man he was, a good friend. We told Captain Rob- 
erts of our decision to leave her at Swansea. He said, "Very well! 
I'll write to the owners to engage two new officers there, but I'll 
be sorry to lose you!" 

We wondered a little at this cordiality. Then he added, "You'll 
be able to make yourself handy on the passage there." We couldn't 
guess what hidden meaning might be in this remark. 

That afternoon all hands were paid off, except myself, Hefford, 
the Chief and Second Engineers, Billy the cook, and Able Seaman 
Stanley, who at his own request stayed in the ship as night watch- 
man. It was obvious that he did not want to leave her. He was 
sixty-five years of age. After more than fifty years at sea, he had no 
home to go to, and no one on shore to care if he lived or died. 

Johnny Stanley was a big man, weighing fourteen stone. He was 
in good condition, completely reliable, and a very suitable man 
to be a watchman. He had his naval pension, but hoped that 
Captain Roberts might sign him on again, for one more last voy- 
age, or at least as a "runner" to help work the ship to Swansea. 

127 



He intensely disliked the idea that his seagoing career was fin- 
ished. 

After the men were paid off, they went ashore, and had a few 
drinks at the nearest pub. Then the firemen and trimmers, who 
were all "Liverpool Irishmen," made inquiries about catching a 
train to Liverpool, and found that they had missed the train. They 
returned to the ship with their dunnage, and asked the Captain 
if they could stay on board that night, adding that they intended 
to catch the first train next morning. 

This permission was granted, so they put their sea bags into 
their bunks in the f o'c'sle, and went ashore for a few more drinks. 
The Captain said to John Stanley, "They'll all get boozed, so keep 
a good eye on them when they come on board after they are 
thrown out of the pubs." 

"Aye, aye, sir," said Stanley. 

In the evening, the Captain put on his blue shoregoing suit and 
billycock hat, and informed us that he was going to visit an old 
crony, and that he would probably stay ashore overnight and come 
back on board next morning, when shore gangs would begin un- 
loading our cargo. It was a fair guess that he also intended to "get 
boozed." The Chief Engineer went with him, probably with a 
similar intention. 

After tea, Billy the Cook went ashore, and, soon afterwards, as 
the dock at Govan was a dreary place, Hefford and I put on our 
shore clothes and went to a music hall in Glasgow, where Harry 
Lauder was "bringing down the house" nightly with his latest hit, 
"Roamin' in the GloaminV In those days before moving pic- 
tures had caught on, the vaudeville theaters, which were known as 
"music halls," were almost as plentiful as cinemas are today. It 
cost us only a shilling each for a seat in the back stalls to hear 
Harry Lauder, and we could have stood in the promenade at the 
rear for sixpence. 

Returning to the ship at 11:30 P.M., we heard a hell of a hulla- 
baloo going on in the fo'c'sle. Johnny Stanley met us at the gang- 
plank. "The firemen and trimmers have come on board drunk, 
sir," he said to me, "and they're fighting mad. It'll be a wonder if 
some of them don't get killed!" 

128 



I went forward and had a look down the fo'c'slehatch. A general 
brawl was in progress. As though sides had been picked, the ten 
men below were fighting in pairs, punching one another vigor- 
ously, swearing and yelling at the top of their voices. Blood was 
flowing from punched noses, and several of the combatants were 
rolling on the floor, while the panting, cursing, and yelling made 
a perfect Kilkenny shindig. 

A wharf policeman came on board to investigate. I took him 
along to see for himself, and suggested that he should go down 
into the fo'c'sle to quieten them before murder was committed 

"I wouldna gae doon there for a thoosand poondsl" was his 
comment. "Let them be till the morning." 

We stood by for awhile, until the fighting gradually subsided, 
and the warriors went to sleep. Next morning, though most of 
them had cuts, bruises, and black eyes, they all went ashore to- 
gether, apparently the best of friends, and that was the last we 
saw of them. 

Our cargo was discharged by shore gangs. We spent a miserable 
Christmas on board, for Glasgow had few attractions to offer two 
young ship's officers who had not yet been paid off. 

Talking to the stevedores and port officials, we heard of the 
launching of the giant new Cunard liner, the Lusitania, from John 
Brown's shipyards on the Clyde six months previously, in June, 
1906. She and her sister-ship, the Mauretania, built on the Tyne 
and launched in October, 1906, were the world's biggest ships, 
each of nearly 32,000 tons. 

The Lusitania was the pride of the Clyde, as well she might be, 
for she was not only the biggest ship ever built, but, with her 
four propellers and turbine engines, which on her trials enabled 
her to attain a speed of 26 knots, she was the fastest merchant 
ship in the world, and the most luxuriously appointed. She and 
the Mauretania were designed and built for the Cunard service 
between Liverpool and New York, and had both now been de- 
livered to the owners at Liverpool, for final fitting up before go- 
ing into regular service in 1907. 

Pictures of the Lusitania were on sale in Glasgow. Hefford and 
I each bought one. I intended to have mine framed, to present 

129 



to my mother. The giant ship, with her four tall funnels belching 
black smoke as she tore through the water raising a curling bow 
wave and leaving a churned wake from her four propellers, was 
a vision to stir the imagination of two young officers in the old 
rattletrap collier Nether Holme lying at Govan on that dreary 
Christmas Day. She was something far beyond our utmost hopes, 
but there was no harm in looking at her picture wistfully . . . 
and wondering . . . if perhaps . . . some day, with luck . . . 

Most of our cargo had been discharged by Christmas Eve, and 
we were to clear out from the Clyde on December 27, when the 
Captain would be able to pick up a crew to work the ship to 
Swansea. Hefford and I went ashore in the evening of Boxing 
Day, and no one was left in the ship except Stanley the watchman, 
who was sitting by the galley fire, smoking his pipe. 

When we returned on board at 11 P.M., there was no sign of 
Stanley. This was very strange, as he was certainly not a man who 
would walk off, or neglect his duty in any way. Except for a lan- 
tern and the fire in the galley stove, the ship was in darkness. I 
took the lantern, and we walked around the decks, calling out his 
name. 

After a few minutes, we heard a weak moan, from overside. I 
peered into the blackness between the ship's side and the wharf, 
and again heard a faint groaning sound. Quickly I lowered the 
lantern on a lanyard, arid there we saw Stanley up to his neck 
in the bitterly cold water, hanging on to a muddy, greasy stringer, 
joining the wharf piles. He had fallen overboard when he was 
adjusting the plank gangway to the rising tide, and had injured 
himself, so that he was unable to pull himself up out of the water. 

In a few seconds we had a Jacob's ladder over the side. Hefford 
went down and put a bowline around Stanley's shoulders. The 
two of us then tailed on and tried to hoist the heavy and now un- 
conscious man up to the deck. Luckily at this moment the Second 
Engineer came on board. With his help we got Stanley up over 
the rail and onto the deck, and carried him into the galley. 

Our shoregoing suits were plastered with stinking black Glas- 
gow mud, but that was of little importance in the circumstances. 
Stanley was blue in the face and hands, and had cuts on his head. 

130 



We thought that he was dead. The Second Engineer ran to get 
an ambulance, while Hefford and I stripped Stanley of his clothes, 
wrapped him in a blanket, and forced some whisky between his 
teeth. He began breathing heavily. How long he had been in the 
water we had no means of knowing, but only a man of iron con- 
stitution and will could have held on as he did until help came. 
The ambulance men took him to the hospital. We never saw 
him again, but we heard later that he had recovered. It would 
have been a strange end to his long career at sea, mostly served in 
sailing ships, to be drowned in port, but he was one of those tough 
seamen who come through everything and never say die. 

The Nether Holme, with a temporary crew, cleared out from 
the Clyde unballasted, except for bunker coal, for our voyage to 
Swansea in the narrow waters of the Irish Sea. 

As soon as the Clyde pilot left us, Captain Roberts gave me the 
task of erecting a portable bulkhead of long and heavy planks at 
the after end of Number Two hold. 

This, he explained, would be a temporary spare bunker to hold 
several hundred tons of coal, to avoid dumping the coal loose on 
deck, as we had done on the previous voyage. Building the bulk- 
head was work which should have been done by shore labor at 
Glasgow or Swansea, but to save money Captain Roberts had de- 
cided that we should do the work at sea. 

"It's a simple job," he said, nonchalantly. "I'll keep the bridge, 
and you and Hefford and two A.B.'s can put it up in a few hours. 
I'll give you a quid each, if you make a good job of it," he added. 
"How's that?" 

We knew better than to refuse, as we wanted good discharges, 
but the "simple job" took us all the daylight hours of the two 
days on the passage to Swansea, and we had to stand watch on the 
bridge at night as well. 

At Swansea we were paid off, and I was given the good dis- 
charge that I had thoroughly earned. I had got my time in, to 
the day, and I was very pleased to shake the coal dust of the 
Nether Holme off my feet. 

She was the last of the small cargo-carrying steamers con- 

131 



temptuously or humorously named "tramps" in which I had the 
privilege of serving my time. I had now been in the merchant 
service for nine years. I had visited more than fifty ports, in all 
the continents of the globe; and I was twenty-three-and-a-half 
years of age. 

In two years since I had obtained my First Mate's certificate, I 
had made five voyages, in five different steamers, and I had man- 
aged to get my time in, to sit for the Master Mariner's examina- 
tion, at last. 

I was very impatient. It had been impressed on me by wise ad- 
visers, especially by my father, that I should study for the Mas- 
ter Mariner's certificate while I was still young enough to learn 
easily, before my brain had ossified. Many an officer had been sat- 
isfied to work for years as a Mate in sail or steam before attempt- 
ing the examination for Master, but I was well advised to get it 
over and done with as soon as I had completed the minimum 
period of seagoing service. 

Perhaps I am the only officer of the British mercantile marine 
who has ever had the hide to enter for the Master Mariner's ex- 
amination with the exact minimum of service, to the very day, 
shown on discharge papers. There could not have been many 
others lucky enough to have put in the qualifying time without 
even one day over for good measure. My record in this respect 
could be equaled but not surpassed, but I was strictly within my 
rights. 

I now realized that, during my two years in steamers (including 
the time in port and ashore), I had neglected my theoretical stud- 
ies. A hardworked Mate in a tramp steamer usually has little lei- 
sure or surplus energy, either at sea or in port, for mental concen- 
tration on theoretical problems. He has enough practical prob- 
lems to solve, from day to day and from hour to hour, and time 
never hangs heavily on his hands. He has not only to work, but 
also to keep other men working and that is sometimes the hard- 
est work of all. 

Yet, as I had learned more from practice than I could ever have 
learned from books, I now had the "feel" of steamers. I knew what 

132 



they could, and could not do, in fair weather and foul; and what 
the men in them could and would do. 

But of the engines, and of the men who worked down below to 
make the engines work, I knew very little then, as now; for it is 
not the duty of a deck officer to make a steamer move, but only 
to control her movements and to signal to the men down below 
to make her move or stop but how the engineers do their work 
is their business, not his: and how the firemen and trimmers can 
work for hours in temperatures of 100 F. or higher, day after 
day, without melting to a grease spot, is their secret. 

It was different in sail, where an officer, even more than an Able 
Seaman, had to be able to do everything in a ship, and to adjust 
her movements to the ever whimsical power of the winds, seas, 
and currents, by brawn-power and brain-power, not by mechani- 
cal "horse-power." 

Life in steamers was easier for the deck officers and deckhands 
than life in sail. I do not say that it was easier for the firemen and 
trimmers; but their work down below required more brawn and 
less brain than the work of seamen making or taking in sail. 

Yes, I had got used to steamers, and I had nearly lost the desire 
to go back to sail. Occasionally, if I sighted a full-rigged ship with 
all sail set and everything drawing nicely, in a fair breeze in mid- 
ocean, I had a yearning to return to that life which had now be- 
come like a dream that fades. 

I had become a "steamboat sailor" now; but what I had learned 
in tramps was this: that the men who serve in them do a valuable 
duty patiently and cheerfully, with no incentive of romantic 
glamor or glory, no heroical publicity, much discomfort, and some 
hardships and risks, and very small reward. They move the world's 
cargoes, to feed the maws of trade and industry, but they get no 
thanks for it. Yet theirs is one of the most essential labors in the 
world, for without their steady endurance all seaborne trade and 
much of the world's industry would come to a standstill. 

There they come and go, in and out of all the world's ports big 
and small, near and remote the men in the little old slabsided 
rusty tramps and coasters their vessels unlovely and unloved, the 
crews unrenowned yet they "carry on" uncomplainingly, for they 

133 



are the world's carriers on the oceans' ways, the drab and some- 
times grimy heroes whose sagas remain unsung. 

And whenever I see a tramp steamer, at sea, or entering or leav- 
ing port, or idle at anchor, or busy at a berth, I do not think with 
humility, "There, but for the grace of God, go I!" 

Rather I think with pride: "There go the ships, and there go 
the men in the ships, who keep the world's trade moving." They 
may be "unwept, unhonored, and unsung," but I am grateful that 
it was granted to me to be one of them, if only for a while. 



134 



$ 

CHAPTER ELEVEN 



Master in Sail The Square Rigged Certificate 
My Mother's Surprising Suggestion Studying 
for Extra Master Liverpool Music Halls I 
Pass the Extra Exam A Great Stroke of Luck 
I Join the Cunard Line My First Cunarder, the 
"Caronia"One of the "Pretty Sisters" The 
Tussle for Atlantic Supremacy Cunard' s Tri- 
umphs Mothers Wisdom The Turning Point 
of My Career. 



HOME again in Liverpool, in January, 1907, I enrolled at the 
Nautical College to take the examination for a Master's Certifi- 
cate. The Board of Trade issued two kinds of Master's Certificate 
for "foreign-going" vessels in sail or in steam. I decided to take 
the examination for Master in Sail. This certificate, known as the 
"square-rigged" qualification, had one obvious advantage. A Mas- 
ter in Sail was entitled to take command either of a sailing-vessel, 
or of a steamer; but the holder of a Steamship Master's Certificate 
was not thereby entitled to take command of a sailing vessell 

At this time, when hundreds of oceangoing sailing vessels were 
still in service under the British flag, the examination for Master 
in Sail remained as it had been for a long time previously. The 

135 



handling of sail had not basically changed. Apart from this prac- 
tical aspect, the examinations for Master in Sail and Master in 
Steam were the same in regard to the theory and practice of navi- 
gation, mathematics, flag-signaling, mercantile law, and so on. A 
Master in Steam was required to know the routines in steamers 
usually acquired from practical experience as a deck officer, but 
was not questioned by the examiners on the handling of sail. 

The advantage of obtaining a square-rigged Certificate, would 
be that it might come in handy if I found difficulty in getting a 
job in a steamer! I had every young officer's secret dread of being 
left "on the beach," and I still had some lingering ideas of going 
back to sail, especially if I could be offered command of a crack 
sailing vessel ... for such are youth's dreams, the stuff of ambi- 
tion . 

Seated in the classroom at the Nautical College, with a dozen 
other candidates for Master some of them middle-aged men, 
with years of service as Mates in sail or steam I realized how 
much I had neglected my opportunities for study since passing 
for First Mate nearly two years previously. But such opportunities 
while I was serving in the Rembrandt, the Texan, the Jura, the 
Shira, and the Nether Holme had been fewl Now I was rusty on 
theoretical knowledge, and I didn't take kindly to the classroom, 
I longed for the open sea again. 

But I stuck to it, and, after six weeks, felt ready to take the ex- 
amination. The practice was that men who failed at a first at- 
tempt usually tried again, two or three weeks later, and some- 
times had several failures before they got through. It all depended 
on the examiners' opinions, and there was no harm in trying. To 
my surprise, I passed the first time that I went up for the examina- 
tion. 

I hastened home full of joy, and showed my "Blue Paper" (the 
provisional certificate) to my parents. "There you arel" I shouted. 
"I've passed for Master, and I'm off to sea again, as soon as I can 
get a ship. No more exams for mel" 

I was now stony broke, as I had found it easy to spend money 
ashore, even while enrolled as a student far easier than to earn 

136 



it at sea. I was determined to go down to the docks the very next 
day and look for a ship any ship, whatever was offering. 

But my dear mother said quietly, "Oh, yes, that's very good, and 
now you'll be able to sit for Extra Master!" 

I was astonished, as I didn't know that she had ever heard o 
such a thing, and I replied, "Well, it's this way. Extra Master is 
a stiff exam. It's quite unnecessary. It's voluntary. It takes a long 
time, and, besides, I'm broke. I must get to sea again, to earn 
some money." 

As had happened before, my mother's forethought proved on 
this occasion to be of crucial importance in my life. "You may 
be broke now," she said, "but an Extra Master's Certificate will 
stand you in good stead later on. If you'll go in for that exam, 
you can stay at home for nothing, and furthermore I'll let you 
have one pound a week for pocket money, for as long as it takes 
you to get through." 

My father, a dour Scot, who, after many years of doubt, was be- 
ginning to believe that a sea career could, in exceptional cases, be- 
come remunerative, was listening to this conversation. He broke 
in with, "Aye, lad, ye'll have to earn some money after all your 
idleness on shore, but I'd rather ye'd go in for the Extra examina- 
tion, if ye can make sure that ye'll pass it, and study hard, and 
don't waste your time in music halls in the evenings, as ye've been 
doing and don't forget to pay us the money back later!" he added, 
with a grin. 

I considered this carefully. Then I jacked my mother's offer up 
to one pound ten shillings a week, and accepted it. Truly, mother 
love is the most unselfish love of all. 

The money came in very handy. I studied all day at the Col- 
lege, and three evenings a week at home. On the other evenings 
I'd go out with friends, or sometimes alone, for a two-shilling seat 
at one of Liverpool's eight or ten music halls, and try to forget 
about trigonometry, naval architecture, nautical law, and the 
many other worries of the Extra Master's examination. 

The art of vaudeville at that time, before moving-picture enter- 
tainment had been substituted for the magic of living artistry, 
was at its peak of popularity. After my years of rough living at 

137 



sea, I was enthralled by the dazzling personalities of the vaude- 
ville stars, such as Dan Leno, Little Tich, Harry Lauder, Marie 
Lloyd, Fred Kitchen, George Robey, and others whose names 
were household words in Britain as they traveled on circuit, from 
city to city, drawing packed houses everywhere. Their polished 
performances were based chiefly on hearty humor, rocking the 
audiences with the belly-laughter that is good for the soul; but 
their great asset was their ability to "get across the footlights" and 
to arouse personal responses in the audience, in a way that photo- 
film art could never hope to do. 

There were only two of us studying for the Extra Master's 
Certificate. We stuck dose together, and helped one another to 
solve knotty problems. He was a Cunard officer, several years 
older than I, married, with two children. The Cunard Line had 
only recently made it a rule that promotion to senior rank in 
the company's service depended on the holding of an Extra Mas- 
ter's Certificate. This certificate was now required to be held by 
all junior officers before joining the Cunard service. 

My fellow-student realized that younger men would be pro- 
moted over his head unless he made the effort to pass for Extra 
Master. He had obtained leave for three months off pay to sit 
for the exam, and he was anxious to pass as quickly as possible, 
while lamenting that his years of practical experience had caused 
him to forget much of his theoretical knowledge. 

With these worries on his mind, he could not relax even for a 
minute. He wouldn't come out with me for a beer at lunchtime, 
and would never take an evening off from his studies to go with 
me to a music hall. As a result he became "bogged down." He even 
grew a beard because he was too busy to shave! 

He knew more about practical seamanship than I, from sheer 
weight of experience, but I had the advantages of being young 
enough to be still free of care, so that I could learn without anxiety, 
and I had a good memory for details. 

After nine weeks, I went up for the examination, and was for- 
tunate enough to pass. My worried friend with the beard took 
several weeks longer before he felt game to face the examiners. 
Then, in his overanxiety, he failed. A few weeks after that, he 

138 



tried again, and got through at this second attempt, by which 
time he was dithering about "like a paper man in a squall," as 
the old salts used to say. 

It was on May 15, 1907, that I passed for Extra, The news was 
conveyed to me by the Board of Trade examiners, at the conclu- 
sion of the oral examination which followed the written tests. The 
examiners, a panel of three, were all elderly men, retired Cap- 
tains of wide experience. The Senior Examiner broke the news 
to me with the words, "Congratulations, Bisset, you've got through 
all rightl Now, what are you going to do?" 

I hadn't any definite plan, but I said, with as much self-control 
as possible, subduing my elation, "I'll look for a ship!" 

"How would you like to join the Cunard Line?" he asked. 

"Nothing I would like better!" I replied, so surprised that you 
could have knocked me down with a crowbar. 

"Well," he continued, "they take only officers with an Extra 
Master's certificate, and you're now qualified! Captain Lyon tele- 
phoned to me this morning to ask if I knew of a qualified man 
looking for a job. He's the assistant to Captain Dodd, Marine 
Superintendent of Cunard. I'll give you a note to him, now, and, 
if you take my advice, you'll go and see him immediately. Believe 
me, it's the chance of a lifetime. Greatest steamship company in 
the world. If they want you to sail tomorrow, don't hesitate. Go!" 

"Thank you very much, sir/' I said, with mounting inner ex- 
citement. 

The examiner wrote the note of introduction, signed it and my 
Extra Master's Blue Paper, and handed me these and the packet 
containing my references and discharges, which I had brought with 
me to the B.O.T. office for the scrutiny of the examiners. He shook 
my hand and said, "Best o' luck!" 

I was out through the door like a shot from a gun, and hurried 
to the Cunard Company's office at the Huskisson Dock, with my 
thoughts on fire. I had never seriously contemplated such a step 
up in the nautical world as this. I had thought that one got such 
jobs only by having special qualifications, or at least previous 
experience in big passenger liners. 

But I had never served in a big passenger liner. A quarter of 

139 



an hour previously, I had not even known that I would pass for 
Extra Master, I began to wonder if all this was only a dream, and 
that presently I would wake up and have a nice morning cup of 
tea. But the busy Liverpool street scene was too real to be a dream. 
I gained confidence as I neared my destination, and muttered to 
myself, "Why not, anyway? . . ." 

In a poky office, known as "the Hut," at the lock gates, I pre- 
sented myself and my papers to Captain G. M. Dodd, and Captain 
Lyon. They scrutinized me and my papers carefully. Then they 
affably asked me questions about the ships I had voyaged in, and 
their Masters. They were sounding me out not only on seamanship 
but on my ability to give direct but tactful answers to questions, 
which is also a requisite of Cunard officers . . . 

Then Captain Dodd suddenly said, "You'll do! We'll take you 
on, and see what you're made of. Join the Caronia as Fourth Of- 
ficer, at seven pounds a month. She's coaling, loading cargo, and 
provisioning now, and she'll sail for New York next Wednesday." 

So that was that . . . 

The Caronia! I could scarcely believe my ears. One of the 
"Pretty Sisters," Ocean Grayhounds, the pride of the Western 
Ocean . . . 

Captain Lyon said to me, pointing out through the door of the 
hut to a big ship with two red-painted funnels topped with black, 
in the dock, "There she is! She's been having her first refit since she 
went into service three years ago, and shell be back on the New 
York run, for the midweek service, with the Carmania, next week. 
You join her on Monday morning. In the meantime, go to Ray- 
nors and get a uniform suit and overcoat and badge cap, and also 
a uniform frock coat. The outfit will cost you fourteen pounds," 
he added, with a grin, "your first two months wages but they'll 
open a credit account for you, as a Cunard officer, if you want to 
buy your uniform on tick!" 

I was still feeling dazed by the suddenness of all this passing 
for Extra Master and being engaged by Cunard, all within one 
hour the most eventful hour I had ever known but I managed 
140 



to preserve what I hope was a calm demeanor appropriate to the 
occasion. 

"Best o' luck!" The M.S. and his assistant shook hands with 
me, and Captain Lyon added, "You can go on board her and 
have a look around now, if you wish. Introduce yourself to Mr. 
Gronow, the Second Officer, and tell him you've been taken onl" 

I was walking on air as I went through the wharf shed, and then 
stood looking up at the liner's immense bulk. The Caronia, 19,593 
tons gross, was a twin-screw, steel-hulled steamer, launched at 
Brown's shipyard on the Clyde in 1904. She was 675 feet long 
over-all (that is, including the forerake and stern overhang), 650 
feet long in the keel ("between the perpendiculars"), and 72 feet 
beam. She therefore had approximately the proportions of length 
to beam (considered ideally as ten to one) defining an Ocean Gray- 
hound, despite her tonnage, which, when she was launched, was 
considered colossal. 

To compare her with my previous ship, the rusty little old 
tramp Nether Holme, would be a comparison of the sublime with 
the ridiculous. She was nearly fourteen times bigger than the 
Nether Holme, but whereas the tramp carried a crew of twenty 
all told, this grand lady had a crew of 710, and carried 2,626 
passengers as welll 

She and her sister, the triple-screw Carmania launched also 
at Brown's on the Clyde in 1904 were Atlantic Mail Steamers. 
At their average speed of eighteen knots, they covered the distance 
between Liverpool and New York, 3,036 nautical miles, in almost 
exactly seven days. This meant that these two vessels, in them- 
selves, could not maintain a schedule of regular weekly sailings 
from both terminals simultaneously, but they could do so in con- 
junction with other vessels, such as the older and smaller Umbria 
andEtruria. 

When they were launched in 1904, the Caronia and the Car- 
mania were by far the biggest Cunarders, and also the biggest 
ships in the world. The Carmania was the first Cunarder with 
triple screws and turbines, and she was slightly faster than the 
Caronia which had reciprocating engines and twin screws. Yet 
these two "pretty sisters," though supreme in their beauty of line 

141 



and luxurious appointments when they were launched, had not 
reigned long as Queens of the Western Ocean, and in fact failed 
to take the Blue Riband of the Atlantic from the crack German 
liners, Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse and Kaiser Wilhelm II. 

Speed was not the only requirement of the Atlantic mail-and- 
passenger service, but it was an important element in the intense 
competition between the British lines, and also between the 
British and foreign lines, for Atlantic supremacy. To meet that 
competition, the Cunard Line had now launched the incom- 
parable sisters, Lusitania and Mauretania, which went into service 
early in 1907. They were not only the biggest vessels in the world 
(31,000 tons) but the fastest. 

With an average speed of 23.10 knots, the Lusitania on her 
maiden voyage had wrested the Blue Riband from the Germans. 
A few months later, the Mauretania took the mythical trophy with 
a speed of 23.69 knots, and later attained average speeds of up to 
26 knots and held the "record" for 22 years. 

The Lusitania and the Mauretania had therefore put the 
"pretty sisters," Caronia and Carmania, into a position of sec- 
ondary magnificence. 

Yet the Caronia, as I mounted her gangway, seemed to me a 
wonderful ship, of awe-inspiring dimensions, a scarcely-dared 
dream or hope come true. 

As I stepped onto her upper deck, I was amazed at the bustle 
and activity on board. There were stevedores, painters, plumbers, 
joiners, and stewards everywhere. After wandering along what 
seemed to me miles of promenade decks, alleyways, and com- 
panionways, I eventually found my way up to the bridge, and 
introduced myself to Second Officer Gronow. 

And what a bridge! It stretched across the ship, above the boat- 
deck, and measured 86 feet from port to starboard. The center 
part was enclosed in a teakwood house, with strong plate glass 
"dear view screens," and was known as the wheelhouse. The wings 
of the bridge were open to the sky, and extended a few feet over- 
side, for convenience in docking and undocking. 

Above the wheelhouse was a platform open to the sky, known as 

142 



"Monkey Island." On it was a standard compass, used for taking 
bearings, as Monkey Island had all-round visibility. Below the 
bridge were the curved forward extensions of the boatdeck and 
promenade deck in the midship superstructure, on which passen- 
gers could stroll around without interruption. But they were not 
allowed on the bridge, except in the very rare cases when the 
Captain might allow that privilege to some person of great dis- 
tinction, as a special favor or compliment. 

I stared at the profusion of instruments and gear. Apart from 
the steering wheel and compass, there were two engine-room tele- 
graphs (port and starboard), anchoring and docking telegraphs, 
speaking-tubes, fire-alarm boxes, telephones, chart-tables, and all 
manner of gadgets and refinements that were new to me. 

When I told Gronow that I was the New Fourth Officer, he 
welcomed me cordially, took me into the officers' quarters abaft 
the bridge, and introduced me to several others. They were a 
lively lot, and, when they found out that I was a sailing ship man, 
they made me as welcome as the flowers in May. I was soon at 
ease. They invited me to have lunch on board, in the officers' 
messroom a small compartment on one of the lower decks. Then 
Gronow took me on a tour of the ship, and showed and told me 
some of her characteristics and internal arrangements. 

I went ashore, still walking on air, and hurried to Raynors, the 
naval tailors, to be measured for my uniform suit. As usual, they 
had a large stock of nautical uniforms, which with a few adjust- 
ments, could be delivered at short notice. 

It was late in the afternoon when I arrived home. My mother 
greeted me with an anxious question, "How did you get on in 
your exam? Did you pass?" 

I waved my Blue Paper at her, and said, teasingly, "Yes, I did, 
and I've got a ship, too." 

"Quick work," she commented. "What ship?" 

"The Caronia, mother. I'm a Cunard officer now." 

It was her turn to be surprised. When she saw that I really 
meant it, her joy was unbounded. That was a very happy evening 
in our home. 

143 



CHAPTER TWELVE 



My First Voyage in a Cunarder Getting the 
"Caronia" Ready for Sea The Mails The Cap- 
tain and Officers 3J36 Souls Afloat "Bon 
Voyage" at the Mersey Bar The Watches at Sea 
"Full ahead Both" at Eighteen Knots Our 
Pride and Glory Navigating from Shore to 
Shore A Call at Queenstown The Last View 
of Erin Fastnet Abeam. 



WHEN I joined the Caronia on Monday morning, May 19, 1907, 
she was coaling. She required 5,000 tons of coal for the voyage 
from Liverpool to New York and return. She coaled at both ter- 
minal ports. One of our problems was to keep the passenger com- 
partments as free of coal dust as possible while bunkering was in 
progress no easy matter, as the passenger compartments occupied 
so much space in the shipl 

The Caronia was a steel-hulled vessel, with a superstructure of 
three decks occupying 500 feet of her over-all length of 675 feet 
The foredeck was 120 feet long, and the afterdeck 50 feet, includ- 
ing the stern overhang. There were two cargo hatches forward, 
and two aft. Most of the space around the engine rooms and boiler 
rooms was occupied by the bunkers and freshwater tanks. The 
bunkers were filled through heavy steel ports in the ship's side, 



which were designed to be strongly secured from inside, to resist 
the pounding of the seas. 

While the ship was being coaled, all the passenger compart- 
ments were kept closed. The furniture in the saloons, smoking- 
rooms, and lounges was protected with linen covers. Despite these 
precautions, some coal dust penetrated to all parts of the ship. The 
stewards and cleaners had the task of removing this grime before 
the passengers came aboard. How they hated coaling! But it was 
a necessary ordeal in those days before oil fuel had come into 
general use. 

Watering a vessel of that size, for the requirements of the boilers 
and of 3,336 souls on a passage of seven days to New York, was a 
matter of nice calculation by the designers of the vessel. The in- 
take was through hoses, from the dockside mains, to the cocks 
leading to the water tanks a responsibility of the carpenter, 
under the Chief Officer. The large quantity of water and of bunker 
coal acted as ballast, and it had to be used progressively in such a 
way as not to disturb the trim and stability of the vessel at sea. 

Food for 3,336 souls that word "soul" is the old-fashioned but 
appropriate term for human beings of all sorts and ages in a ship 
amounted to a considerable tonnage, and a big variety of hard 
liquor was included. Then, too, the Caronia was an Atlantic 
Mail Steamer, and many tons of mail, in thousands of bags, were 
hoisted inboard to be stowed in the mailrooms. 

Every soul in the crew, including the stewards and stewardesses, 
had his or her own allotted task in the intense activity that was 
going on in all parts of the ship to get her ready. In addition to 
the crew of 710, a large number of shore officials, dockside workers, 
supply contractors, tradesmen, plumbers, carpenters, painters, 
clerks, and messengers were hurrying and scurrying and swarming 
all over the ship. I was bewildered at the amount of detail that 
needed somebody's supervision but whose? Not the Fourth Of- 
ficer's, I soon realized! 

The commander of the Caronia was Captain John Pritchard, 
and the Chief Officer William Protheroe, both men trained in sail. 
They briefly but affably welcomed me, and I was ordered to at- 
tach myself as an assistant to Second Officer Gronow. 

145 



The navigating or "deck" officers were Chief Officer Protheroe, 
First Officer Barber, Second Officer Gronow, Senior Third Officer 
McLellan, Junior Third Officer R. D. Jones, and myself with 
the rank of Fourth Officer, but actually I was seventh and last in 
the galaxy of gold stripes on the bridge. Yet I felt as proud as 
Punch in my new uniform with its one gold stripe on the sleeve, 
which symbolized the bottom rung of the ladder of responsibility. 

Sailing day arrived, and at high water the liner was moved 
from the dock upriver to the "Liverpool Landing Stage" a pon- 
toon, which, rising and falling with the tides, enabled the ship's 
gangways to be secured without the need of frequently adjusting 
them. Here our passengers came aboard. 

The Caronia carried 300 first-class passengers, at a fare of twenty 
pounds and upwards; 326 second-dass, at a fare of nine pounds; 
and 2,000 third-class, at a fare of five pounds. The accommodation 
and catering were compartmented according to these class dis- 
tinctions, which depended only on each passengers' ability or 
willingness to pay more or less for the various grades of comfort. 

The first dass had elegant cabins and recreation rooms on the 
two upper decks in the midship superstructure; the second dass 
occupied the deck below them; and the third dass were in three 
decks below the hull line, with their promenade space on the for- 
ward deck. 

Our third-dass passengers streamed on board with much exdte- 
ment and hullabaloo. A large proportion of them were emigrants 
from Ireland, and many were Jews and others from Eastern and 
Central Europe, all making for that land of great opportunities, 
America. This was the period of unrestricted immigration into 
the U.S.A., when almost any soul who could afford a steamer fare 
of five pounds could shake off the worries of Europe and begin 
life anew on the other side of the Western Ocean. 

The Atlantic steamship companies competed keenly for this 
profitable trade in the migration of millions of Americans-to-be. 
The transportation of this great exodus from Europe to America 
was done chiefly in British and German ships, not in American 
ships. 

146 



1 



The grand traditions of American seamanship in sail still con- 
tinued, in the "Down Easters" rounding Cape Horn, on the long 
sea-passage between the east and west coasts of America, until 
the Panama Canal was opened in 1914. But on the transatlantic 
mail and passenger services, which catered for luxury travelers 
and also for the almost penurious emigrants from Europe, it was 
Britain and Germany chiefly that rose to the opportunity. 

Liverpool, Hamburg, and Bremen were the main exit-ports of 
the emigrants from northern and central continental Europe and 
the British Isles. The Cunard Line had also several passenger 
vessels transporting migrants westwards across the Atlantic from 
the Mediterranean ports of southern Europe. 

Our third-class passengers were picturesque in their variety of 
garb and racial features, as they plodded up the gangway in seem- 
ingly endless procession, carrying bundles of luggage which per- 
haps contained all their possessions. Their accommodation down 
below, though certainly not luxurious, was fair enough at the 
price, with meals included. A week's discomfort was endurable for 
the benefit presently to be attained, of becoming Americans. Some 
would be millionaires there, and some hoboes, but the magic word 
"America" lured them all, and adventure was in their hearts. 

At the advertised hour of sailing, 5 P.M., we cast off from the 
Landing Stage, assisted by two tugs. 

On leaving port, the navigating officers were "on stations" a 
routine until we reached the open sea. (This routine applied also 
on entering port.) 

The Captain was on the bridge with the Pilot. He was assisted by 
the Second Officer, who in turn was assisted by the Fourth Officer 
(myself). My duty was to stand by the Second Officer, and to see 
that all orders from the Captain or the Pilot were promptly and 
efficiently carried out. I had to handle the engine-room telegraphs, 
and also to watch that the Boss Quartermaster (helmsman) and his 
assistant, the standby Quartermaster, obeyed helm orders in- 
stantly and correctly, and that the "bridge boy" (an Ordinary 
Seaman) kept the log of all engine movements, times of passing 
through locks and dock gates, and other maneuvers. This log 

147 



would be vital evidence in the event of collision or other mishap. 

The Chief Officer and Senior Third Officer were stationed on 
the foredeck at the bows, attending to the mooring ropes, tug- 
boats' ropes, and the anchor if necessary. The First Officer and 
Junior Third Officer were stationed aft, tending ropes, to make 
sure that these did not foul the propellers. Seamen and boys 
were with these officers both forward and aft. 

When the tugboat lines were made fast, the Pilot gave the 
signal to unmoor, and then said to me, in almost a conversational 
voice, "Slow ahead both. . . ." 

I moved the handles of both the engine-room telegraphs, there 
was a double dang 'down below, and, with a gentle vibration, 
20,000 tons of steamer, plus 10,000 tons of coal, water, provisions, 
cargo and mails, and 3,336 souls, were in motion, cast off from 
Europe and its ties. 

After numerous orders for engine movements, ahead and astern, 
port and starboard, we were turned and headed downstream. The 
Pilot calmly ordered, "Half ahead both . . ." and we gathered way 
and proceeded down the narrow and crooked channel of the Mer- 
sey. 

In an hour we were abeam of the Mersey Bar Light Vessel, and 
pitching in a gentle swell and light breeze from ahead. The engines 
were now stopped as the pilot vessel approached. Her dinghy came 
alongside, and the Pilot, with a "bon voyage," left us. 

Now the Captain gave the orders, "Full speed ahead both. Off 
stations. Ring off the engines." This last referred to the sif d 
to the engineers that we had cleared the port, and that they, like 
the rest of the crew, were now on sea routine, with regular alter- 
nation of watches. 

When we were at sea, the seamen or deckhands and boys and 
in some liners the officers also worked in the old-fashioned al- 
ternation of watches four hours on and four off, with dog-watches 
in the afternoon, as in sailing vessels. But in the Cunard Line the 
officers worked in three watches on the bridge that is each officer 
had four hours on duty and eight off, at fixed times. There were 
two officers on the bridge in each watch, a senior and a junior. My 

148 



watch was with Chief Officer Protheroe, from 4 A.M to 8 A.M., and 
4 P.M. to 8 P.M. 

Two of the six Quartermasters were always on the bridge when 
we were at sea one at the wheel and one standing by. They were 
Able Seamen, selected for intelligence and general ability. Each 
took a spell of two hours at the wheel. 

It was a duty of the helmsman to strike the ship's bell, with the 
appropriate number of strokes, at each half hour. This was an 
old routine, which incidentally helped to prevent him from dozing 
or daydreaming, as he had to keep his eye on the clock as well 
as on the compass. But in big liners a bridge boy also stood by 
the Q.M. at the wheel, watching the compass with him, and so 
learning the trade. 

Another Q.M. and boy were posted on the af terdeck or poop 
sometimes known as the "af terbridge" because there was an emer- 
gency wheelhouse there. Their duties were chiefly to tend the 
Patent Log, and to report its hourly readings to the bridge of- 
ficer; and to dip the ensign at the gaff, as might be required to 
salute warships, or to return the signals of passing merchant ves- 
sels. They had also the duty of dropping a lifebuoy astern in- 
stantly in the event of the cry of "Man overboard!" 

In 1907, newfangled loudspeaking telephones, with brass fit- 
tings, had recently been installed in some liners, including the 
Caronia. These were connected from forward and aft to the bridge, 
and also from the engine-room to the bridge, as an addition to the 
old-fashioned speaking-tubes. But the telephones were far from 
fect. Words came through them distorted to such an extent that 
were often unintelligible, and sounded like a foreign lingo 
or the incoherent babblings of an idiot. At such times, especially 
when the ship was being docked or undocked, the average Captain 
would impatiently grab a megaphone and sing out his orders 
through it to the officers forward or aft in a manner which was 
also sometimes unintelligible! 

I was at first unable to make any sense of messages that came 
through the telephone, but, after some practice, I gained skill at 
interpreting its gabble. 

In addition to the engineroom telegraph, there were on the 

149 



bridge two "docking telegraphs," one connected to the forward 
end and one to the after end of the ship. These were in principle 
similar to the engineroom telegraphs, but with appropriate mark- 
ings, different for each end of the ship, for sending signals to and 
from the bridge. 

The dial of the forward docking telegraph had markings such 
as STAND BY ANCHORS, LET GO ANCHOR [Port or Star- 
board], SLOW AHEAD, and SLOW ASTERN these two last- 
named being signals that would be sent from the officer at the bows 
to the bridge when the ship was being maneuvered in the confined 
spaces of a dock. 

On the after telegraph, there were signals such as MAN OVER- 
BOARD, LET GO LIFEBUOY, MAKE TUGS FAST, and CAST 
OFF MOORINGS. 

All signals transmitted by these telegraphs were answered at the 
receiving end by moving the handle of the telegraph correspond- 
ingly, with the effect of acknowledging and repeating the order. At 
each move of the handle there was the clang of a bell in the instru- 
ment, to draw attention to the signal. 

By using these telegraphs, we could dispense with oral orders by 
megaphone or telephone to the forward and after ends, or with the 
speaking-tube to the engineroom, except for detailed instructions. 
Nevertheless, when docking or undocking, there was always some 
singing out by shipmasters and officers, especially if they had been 
trained in sail to exercise their vocal chords, or if they had orders 
to transmit to tugmasters and dockmen. 

When we were on sea routine, one lookout man was posted on 
the foredeck in the bows, and two in the crow's nest on the fore- 
mast. Their duty was to report to the bridge the position of ves- 
sels, lights, icebergs, derelicts, castaways, shoals, land, or anything 
else of an interesting or possibly dangerous nature ahead. 

The crow's nest was fifty feet forward of, and ten feet higher 
than, the bridge. It had a range of visibility only slightly greater 
than that of the bridge. In fog or thick weather, two lookout 
men were posted on the bows, as visibility from that point (nearer 
to the surface of the water) was often better than from the crow's 
nest or the bridge. 

150 



The lookouts signaled to the bridge by striking a bell to at- 
tract attention, and then orally singing out their messages. The 
men in the crow's nest had the duty of correctly repeating the 
half-hourly bells sounded by the helmsman proof that they too 
were awake and alert. At nighttime, when repeating the bells, 
they looked at the navigation lights, and, if these were in order, 
sang out, "All's well and lights burning brightly." 

At the order "Full speed ahead," the Caronia throbbed to life, 
leaving the Mersey Bar Light Vessel astern with the traditional 
Sailor's Farewell three long blasts on the steam whistle. Our 
course was westerly to the Skerries Rock lighthouse, which we soon 
rounded, and then proceeded southerly through St. George's Chan- 
nel. Being on the 4 P.M. to 8 P.M. watch with the Chief Officer, I 
remained on the bridge. Soon we had the South Stack light on our 
port beam. The twilight spread over Caernarvon Bay and the 
mountains of North Wales, dim on our eastern horizon. 

The Chief Officer went to the port wing of the bridge, then 
beckoned to me. Pointing to the shore, he said, sentimentally, "My 
native land . . . and don't forget, Mr. Bisset, that Wales was 
Wales before England was born!" 

This was a slap at me for being English, but I kept a discreet 
silence. I already knew that he was Welsh, for I had served my 
time in Welsh sailing vessels, and, although I could not speak the 
Welsh language, I knew well enough the lilting accent of Welsh- 
men speaking English. 

It was a coincidence that, on my first voyage in a Cunarder, 
eight-and-a-half years after my first voyage as an apprentice in the 
barque County of Pembroke, and on the same track at the outset 
of the voyage, I was again in the company of Welshmen. Captain 
Pritchard, Chief Officer Protheroe, Second Officer Gronow, and 
the Junior Third Officer, R. D. Jones, were all Welsh. 

They had some advantage over the rest of us when they spoke 
together, as they occasionally did, in their melodious, antique lin- 
go. The fact that four of the seven navigating officers in the 
Caronia were Welsh was exceptional, and I do not record it as 
typical of the British merchant service at that time or since; but I 

151 



have known many Welshmen at sea, and my impression is that 
the men of that ancient race have contributed more to the tradi- 
tions of British seamanship than is generally realized or acknowl- 
edged. 

Now, as the Caronia surged along at eighteen knots in the fad- 
ing light of evening, I was more acutely aware than before of her 
splendor and glory, and of my own so unexpected stroke of for- 
tune in being on her bridge. Never had I been seaborne at such a 
speed, or in such a mighty vessel, or in the company of so many 
souls entrusted, however partially, to my care. 

Most of those souls were promenading and milling about on the 
decks and in the alleyways, trying to get used to their unaccus- 
tomed surroundings. They were for the most part landsfolk, ig- 
norant of our seamen's lore, and their ideas were of the destina- 
tion rather than of the passage; but to navigators the allure of 
voyaging is not in the destination, but in the working of the ship 
along the route. To us, a voyage is from shore to shore, and what 
lies within the shores is of small significance. 

The lights of the fishing fleets working out of Caernarvon Bay 
gradually became visible, and we altered course as necessary, to 
give them a wide berth. Ahead of us, tramp steamers and sailing 
vessels were outward or homeward bound in the narrow waters 
of the Irish Sea. We passed them, one after the other, in our ar- 
rogance and majestic pride, giving the men in them, no doubt, a 
vision of magnificence so far beyond their own scope as to seem 
unattainable. I remembered that, six months previously, on the 
bridge of the Nether Holme with Percy Hefford, I had sighted 
the Caronia and her pretty sister the Carmania at sea in the 
western Atlantic, lighting up at dusk, and how envious we had 
been . . . 

And now ... a dream had come true. 

At the change of the watch, I went below for dinner. The 
Navigating Officers and the Engineers had two separate messrooms 
on one of the lower decks, and ate all their meals there. The Cap- 
tain, Chief Engineer, Doctor, and Purser had their meals in the 
first-class dining saloon with the passengers. (It was not until some 

152 



years later, about 1912, that the Deck Officers in Cunarders were 
put into the first-class dining saloon for their meals and then at 
a table by themselves, so that they could come and go unobtru- 
sively at the change of the watches, or in any emergency.) 

At 9 P.M., I turned into my bunk, weary from a long and ex- 
citing day. Many thoughts pounded in my head to the rhythmical 
accompaniment of the engines' pulsations. Then my ideas sorted 
themselves to a satisfactory formula. "This is the life!" I whispered 
to myself, and, with a contented sigh, turned my face to the bulk- 
head and fell asleep smiling. 

When I went on watch again at 4 A.M., we had rounded the 
Tuskar Light, at the southeastern corner of Ireland, and were 
steaming at reduced speed in a W.S.W. direction along the Irish 
shore, breasting the light Atlantic swell in the dawn, making for 
our only port of call Queenstown in Cork Harbor, on the south 
coast of Ireland, a run of 241 miles from Liverpool. 

At 10 A.M. we embarked the Queenstown pilot off Daunt's Rock 
Light Vessel, and half an hour later we anchored at Queenstown 
(nowadays known as Cobh), within the well-sheltered lower bay 
of Cork. This port, with its easy entrance and good anchorage, was 
(like Falmouth Bay in Cornwall) much frequented by sailing ves- 
sels homeward bound with cargoes, as they could sail in without 
the aid of tugs, and lie at anchor to await orders by telegram 
from the owners, before proceeding to a port of discharge. I had 
been there twice under sail. But Queenstown was also a port of 
call for Cunard and for White Star liners on the Liverpool to 
New York run, both outward and homeward bound, to embark 
and disembark passengers and mails from and to Ireland. 

We anchored half a mile offshore. A dozen or more sailing ves- 
sels were at anchor nearby, and those of us who had been in sail 
scanned them with a particular interest, knowing only too well 
the feelings of the men in them, now safe in this haven after 
months of buffeting and hard fare on the stormy Cape Horn 
route. 

As we made the anchorage, several steam launches, known as 
tenders, came off from the shore, with passengers and mails, and 

153 



soon were fast alongside. Our gangways were lowered, and our new 
passengers chiefly Irish emigrants came aboard with their bag- 
gage. 

In the tenders were some privileged businessmen, who were 
vendors of Irish linen and lace, drapery, groceries, curios, and 
pictures and souvenirs of Ould Ireland. Some of these spread their 
wares on the decks of the tenders, and our passengers could go 
down the gangways to inspect and purchase the novelties dis- 
played. A favored few dealers were allowed on board the liner, 
to do business on our decks, by permission of the Chief Officer, 
to whom they paid privately a small commission for this privilege. 
This was a recognized perquisite of the Chief Officer in liners 
calling at Queenstown, but in sailing vessels the Master usually 
pocketed the commission. 

Dozens of "bumboats" had come off from the shore, and were 
clustered around the stern of the liner. These were rowing boats, 
laden with all kinds of Irish goods, including fresh provisions, 
for sale. Some were "manned" by women, who vied with the male 
bumboatmen in loudly crying their wares in a delightful Irish 
brogue. The bumboat merchants established a roaring trade with 
our third-class passengers and crew, with much noisy banter and 
chaffering, and the technique of line-and-basket delivery. 

We lay at Queenstown for two hours. The Junior Third Officer 
and I were ordered aft to prevent bumboatmen from climbing 
aboard, as this would have broken the monopoly of the privileged 
few who had gained the Chief Officer's favor. 

Half an hour before we raised the anchor, the dealers and other 
visitors from on shore were hustled into the tenders. Then the 
tenders were cast off, the gangways raised, the bumboatmen and 
bumboat women ordered to stand dear, and the order was given, 
"Heave away the windlass" and the anchor was hove up. 

We steamed slowly through the Heads, and dropped the pilot 
off Daunt's Rock at 1 P.M. 

"Off stations! Full ahead both!" An hour later we were abeam 
of the Old Head of Kinsale. The decks were thronged with 
promenading passengers, many of them dewy-eyed at what might 
be their last sight forever of Ould Ireland. 

154 



When I went on watch at 4 P.M., Fastnet Rock Lighthouse was 
abeam our last sight of Europe and I was sent up to Monkey 
Island to take the bearings of it. 

Ahead of us, some 2,800 miles, on the other side of the Atlantic, 
was Sandy Hook, at the entrance to the port of New York, with 
no land intervening. This would be the first time that I would 
make that landfall, which, in many a voyage afterwards, would 
become so familiar to me; but, as ever, the first voyage is the most 
memorable, for it has surprises in store, and experience to be 
gained. 

When I went off watch at 8 P.M., we were fully dear of the land 
and its dangers. All was well and our lights burning brightly. 



155 



CHAPTER THIRTEEN 

t 



Sobriety at Sea The Thirst for Nautical Knowl- 
edge Crossing the Devil's Hole The Atlantic 
Deeps A Strong Stomach Our Track in the 
Iceberg Season Navigational Equipment in 
1907 The Wireless Operator Radio at Sea in 
the Early Days The Purser and His Duties 

Captain's Inspection The "Ship's People 19 

Detailed Organization of a Grand Lady A 
Floating Beehive. 



THE Cunard Company's rules for the conduct of officers were 
based on the Company's experience of sixty-seven years in trans- 
porting passengers on the transatlantic route, since the first two 
Cunard steamers, Britannia and Unicorn, wooden-built paddle- 
wheelers with auxiliary sail, began the service in 1840. One of these 
rules, in 1907, was: "While at all times officers must be courteous 
and helpful to passengers, they must on no account invite them to 
their cabins, or vice versa." 

That was a reasonable rule. Passengers at sea are on holiday, 
and not pursuing their ordinary vocations. They have nothing to 
do except to relax and enjoy themselves; but to a ship's officers 
and crew a voyage is work, and going ashore is the recreation. 

156 



This is the basic difference between "the ship's people" and pas- 
sengers, which some passengers fail to appreciate. 

Another rule prohibited the navigating officers from drinking 
alcoholic liquor sociably with passengers. An officer might have a 
tot in the officers' messroom, or in his own cabin, on coming off 
watch, but never before going on watch. Most of the Captains 
and navigating officers were teetotalers when at sea. Too much 
was at stake. In the event of any mishap, if the Captain, for ex- 
ample, had been seen drinking even one glass of wine at dinner, 
some busybody would be sure to spread the false rumor, "The 
Captain was drunk!" 

It was an advantage, for the Master of a vessel, or for an officer 
of the watch, to be able to swear at an inquiry into any mishap, 
great or small, that he was a teetotaler, or that he made a practice 
of never drinking when at sea. The rule was different in passenger 
vessels from that in cargo carrying tramps. 

Passengers were living cargo. They could not be stowed in the 
holds under battened hatches, and forgotten. They were free to 
roam at random within their class accommodation. It was im- 
possible for an officer to avoid them, the more so as the Com- 
pany's Rules, as well as ordinary courtesy, required officers to be 
polite and helpful in answering their questions. The thirst for 
nautical knowledge among passengers is insatiable. Officers are 
fair game in this hunt for knowledge. 

Being off watch for a total of sixteen hours in each twenty-four, 
I could not spend all that time in my cabin or in the officers' mess- 
room down below. Occasionally I wandered around on the prome- 
nade decks, and took my share of the buffeting by the passengers. 
"What makes the sea blue?"; "Where do sea-gulls sleep?"; "What 
speed are we doing?"; "What causes fog?"; "Will we see any ice- 
bergs?"; "What causes the Gulf Stream?"; or, as the quizzer points 
to a wisp of smoke on the horizon, "What ship is that?" these are 
only specimen openings in the game of Ask the Officer (he knows). 
As this game was almost a novelty to me at that time, I enjoyed it, 
and continued to enjoy it, to some extent, throughout all my years 
at sea. 

When we were 300 miles to the southwestward of Ireland, we 

157 



ran into a storm, and for a few hours the liner pitched and rolled. 
I overheard one of the lady passengers complainingly ask a deck 
steward, "Why is the ship rolling so much? Is there anything wrong 
with her? And why is the sea so rough?" as though he could help 

it. 

Luckily she didn't ask me! The steward, an old hand, answered 
her reassuringly, "It's nothing much, ma'am. We're only crossing 
the Devil's Hole!" 

"The Devil's Hole?'* she gasped. "And what's that?" 

"It's the deepest place in the ocean, ma'am!" 

"Oh," she said, "is that all?" 

The steward was exaggerating. This is one of the Atlantic deeps, 
a "hole" forty thousand square miles in extent, at the edge of the 
Continental Shelf of Europe. Soundings there have revealed depths 
of 2,520 fathoms (15,120 ft.), but several other Atlantic deeps are 
deeper than this, the deepest being the Virgin Trough, or "In- 
ternational Deep," off the Virgin Islands in the West Indies, 4,500 
fathoms (27,000 feet) deep. 

"The Devil's Hole" is not so named on official charts, and 
meteorologists scoff at the notion that it has any influence on the 
weather. Nevertheless, many experienced seamen agree that baro- 
metric disturbances are common in that region. This has nothing 
to do with the depth of the water, but is caused by the mingling 
here of air currents from the Arctic region and the European land 
mass. Yet the legend of "The Devil's Hole" has captured the im- 
agination of many deck-stewards, who find it as good an answer as 
any, and its ominous sound calculated to relieve them and the 
ship's people of further responsibility. 

On this occasion I heard a strange boast from a passenger. As the 
seas rose, and the Caronia began "shoving her nose into it," a few 
of the less hardy souls on the promenade deck made for the lee 
rail ?md began quietly "feeding the fishes." Among them were a 
man and his wife. The husband was affected only slightly by 
Nautical Nausea, but his wife was suffering from intense equili- 
bristic disturbances. He was standing by, holding her hand, and 
doing everything that he could to .lessen her misery with comfort- 
ing remarks. 

158 



Along came a fellow passenger, one of those hearty characters 
who believe that ocean travel is at its best in rough seas. It was 
his boast that he always did forty times around the deck before 
breakfast, and ate four square meals a day in every kind of 
weather. He had a nodding acquaintance with the couple at the 
rail, and, sizing up the situation as one that required a little pep 
talk, he roared, "Good morning. Good morning. Lovely weather, 
isn't it? I'm sorry to see that your wife has such a weak stomach." 

This was too much for the husband, who roared back indig- 
nantly and proudly, "She hasn't a weak stomach. She's throwing 
further than anybody elsel" 

Soon the Devil's Hole and the storm were left astern, and the 
Caronia was thrusting along nicely at eighteen knots in fine 
weather. Our track at this season of the year (April, May, and 
June, when icebergs are adrift in the North Atlantic) skirted to 
the southward of the iceberg region. Our direction was south- 
westerly, on the Great Circle course, from Fastnet Island Light- 
house to the meridian of long. 47 deg. W. in lat. 41 deg. SO min. 
N., known as "the Corner" then westerly to the Sandy Hook 
Light Vessel at the approach to New York. 

Though the Caronia was one of the largest and most up-to-date 
passenger steamers in the world, her navigational equipment in 
1907 was primitive in comparison with the array of uncanny "gadg- 
ets" to be developed during the years of sea service that then 
lay in wait for me. I can now look back on each of those develop- 
ments as they mysteriously appeared at intervals on ships' bridges 
like magical objects conjured up by wizard technicians from the 
laboratories of science and the workshops of engineering research: 
the gyro compass; the gyro pilot or "iron mike"; the fathometer 
or echo sounder; radio time signals; direction finding instruments; 
radio telephones; and, above all, the marvel of radar these and 
many other scientific aids to the navigation and working of a ship 
were unknown and beyond our imagination in 1907. 

The Caronia carried one wireless operator, who was a former 
Post Office landline telegraphist. He pottered about in the daytime 
and slept soundly throughout the night, and nobody paid much 

159 



attention either to him or to his "fantastic instruments." The 
name "wireless telegraphy" also known as "Marconigram sig- 
naling" indicated to our minds something newfangled and un- 
reliable, and of not much practical use. 

The Italian experimenter Marconi was not the "inventor" of 
radio, as is sometimes believed, and such a claim was never made 
by Marconi himself. The pioneering research into the phenomena 
of electromagnetic pulsations or "waves" was done by scientists 
of many nations, including German, Italian, French, British, 
Russian, and American physicists. But Marconi had quite prop- 
erly patented transmitting and receiving apparatus of his own 
design in 1896, and formed a company to sell the apparatus and 
the idea, at first specially for the transmission of messages over 
water that is, principally for use in ships, in which, in the nature 
of things, wire-telegraphy was impossible. 

It was for this reason that the name "wireless" came into use, 
as a dramatic description of a new kind of electric telegraph 
which could send signals by Morse code between ships out of sight 
of one another at sea, or between ships and the shore, far beyond 
visual or normally audible range. For centuries seamen had been 
accustomed to being isolated from the rest of the world when 
they were at sea, with no method of communicating with other 
vessels or with the shore except by flag signals or semaphore or 
signal lamps within a visual range of, say, five miles at most, or by 
siren blasts, megaphones, and leather-throated singing out within 
directly audible range. 

The combat navies were quick to appreciate the tactical ad- 
vantages of "wireless" telegraphy for transmitting orders and re- 
ports between units of a fleet on maneuvers, or between ships and 
naval shore stations. The invention was given a practical test in 
1898 when a Marconi apparatus was installed in the East Goodwin 
Light Vessel, in the English Channel, in communication with the 
shore signal station at South Foreland, seven miles away. The 
Light Vessel was rammed by a steamer in a fog on March 3, 1899, 
and the first wireless distress signal ever sent from a vessel at sea 
was instantly received on shore, and tugs were sent out to the 
rescue, to tow the damaged Light Vessel to safety. 

160 



After that convincing demonstration, the British and other na- 
vies began extensively installing wireless apparatus in ships and 
shore stations. The effective range of the early types of apparatus 
was little more than ten miles, but this range was quickly increased 
by experimentation. In this, as in so many other aspects of techni- 
cal progress, the naval and military use led to developments which 
were later applied with great advantage to civilian purposes. 

But, in its early stages, wireless seemed of little use in the mer- 
cantile marine, in the everyday working of ships at sea. It was en- 
visaged as an emergency method of sending or receiving signals of 
distress, which happily are very rare. In other words, it was only 
"a gadget." 

The first transatlantic liner to install wireless was the German 
S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, in 1900. The Cunarders followed 
almost immediately, beginning with the Lucania. The Caronia 
and the Carmania were equipped with wireless at their launch in 
1904, and all Cunard liners, like most other Atlantic liners, car- 
ried the equipment in 1907. 

At this time there was no regular transmission of time signals 
or news broadcasts, and there were very few commercial "Mar- 
conigrams" or wireless telegrams, and no music or voice broad- 
casts. The range limit was between 150 and 300 miles, depending 
upon atmospheric conditions, which were little understood. There 
were no weather broadcasts, and the International Ice Patrol in 
the North Atlantic had not been organized. In these circumstances 
the wireless operators had little to do except to amuse themselves 
by calling up other ships, exchanging identifications in Morse 
code, which were of little practical use. 

International Radio Telegraphic Conventions held at Berlin 
in 1903 and 1906 had not reached agreement on the control of the 
ether waves for commercial purposes, and had not even agreed on 
an international Distress Call signal. In British ships the Marconi 
Company in 1904 had authorized the use of the letters C Q D 
as a distress call. This was a development from postal and railway 
electric telegraphy in Britain in which C Q was the signal for all 
stations to stand by, and the letter D (for distress) was now added 
to it. It had been suggested at the Berlin Conference that SOS 

161 



should be the Distress Call, chiefly because it was easy to send, 
and unmistakable: three dots, three dashes, three dots. But this 
suggestion had not yet been agreed on, and was not adopted 
until 1908. 

Our navigational equipment in the Caronia included three 
chronometers; a Sir William Thomson standard compass on 
"Monkey Island"; two spirit compasses (one on the bridge and 
one in the after wheelhouse); a handworked Kelvin White sound- 
ing machine; and the Patent Log (towed astern). We had a Morse 
signaling lamp, and the usual International Code flags for ex- 
changing signals with ships encountered within visual range. In 
common with large ships of other companies, we carried special 
"recognition signals" for use at night. These consisted of blue 
lights, flares, and roman candles which emitted various combina- 
tions of red, green, blue, and white fire balls. Ships meeting in 
mid-Atlantic exchanged "ice information" (that is, the position 
of any icebergs sighted) by means of an "Ice Code" of special flags 
in daytime and Morse code words at nighttime, and by Marconi- 
gram signals. 

I had no real difficulty in making myself familiar with the 
routine work, as I gave it my concentrated attention in my am- 
bition to be acknowledged as competent. The principles of the 
navigation and seamanship required in handling the vessel were 
familiar enough to me; all that was strange to me was the magni- 
tude of this floating palace and the details of her organization. I 
was too keenly interested in these details, whether I was on watch 
or off, to take much notice of the passengers. It was all fascinating 
to me. 

I soon found that, contrary to rumors that I had believed when 
I was knocking about in tramps, the Cunard officers were neither 
supermen nor snobs, but just ordinary sociable coves like myself, 
though strict in attention to detail and self-discipline. They were 
helpful to me while I was green in the Company's service. Their 
front of decorum and brassbound glory in the presence of pas- 
sengers was part of a necessary show to maintain the prestige of 
our service against the keen competition of the German and other 

162 



transatlantic lines; but beneath those brassbound tunics beat the 
hearts of gold of decent, hardworking, conscientious, and affable 
coves who had worked up from the bottom, as I had. They could 
mix with millionaires, if not with kings, without losing the com- 
mon touch. This discovery was a comfort to me, and still is. 

Our Purser, Joe Lancaster who was known in nautical jargon 
as "Pay" and his assistants, or "Dips" (who dipped pens into ink- 
wells), had most of the worries of handling the passengers. The 
Purser was the nautical successor of the old-time "supercargo" who 
in merchant voyages was the representative of the owners, manag- 
ing the ship's funds and the sale of the cargo. 

In the earier period of Merchant Adventurers, the owners 
themselves voyaged in their vessels to buy and sell merchandise in 
distant countries. As their fortunes and fleets increased, they 
stayed at home and appointed in each vessel a supercargo, who 
became rather oddly known as the "ship's husband." This term 
had nothing to do with marital status, but threw back to the orig- 
inal Anglo-Saxon meaning of the word "husband," as "house- 
holder" or master of the house, in the financial or economic sense 
of "husbanding" resources. 

The Purser in a passenger liner was the lineal descendant of the 
Ship's Husband, and therefore managed the accounts, but, in sail- 
ing vessels and small cargo vessels, these were usually managed 
by the Captain. 

The word "Captain," though hallowed by usage, is a form of 
address rather than of descriptive function. His legal and actual 
status is that of Ship's Master, or "Shipmaster," and this term is 
generally used in official and formal documents to this day. It 
implies that his decision in regard to everything and everybody 
in the ship is final, and that his authority is absolute, even over 
that of the owner in person, or the owner's representative, while 
the ship is at sea. 

Each morning at ten o'clock, the Captain began a tour of inspec- 
tion of the ship, which took him an hour or more. He was accom- 
panied on the lengthy walking tour by a Navigating Officer, an 
Engineer Officer, the Doctor, the Purser (or an Assistant Purser) 
and the Chief Steward. It was an impressive procedure, as so many 

163 



eagle eyes roved for imperfections of any kind, and so many ears 
were cocked for complaints from crew or passengers. This was 
an arduous duty for the Captain, who had so many other duties. 
As passenger liners were being built bigger and bigger, the com- 
panies eventually appointed a Staff Captain in each of the bigger 
ships, to relieve the Captain of this, and to assist him in other 
duties; but there was no Staff Captain in the Caronia. 

Much of the Captain's work was clerical and administrative, in 
matters not directly concerned with navigating or working the 
ship, for his remained the final responsibility for everything, and 
he had innumerable forms to fill out or to scrutinize and sign. 
The administrative work on board was compartmented, with a 
devolution of responsibility in each department, but yet the Cap- 
tain had to "know everything," and to be on duty or at call twenty- 
four hours in the day. 

Of the "ship's people" (this term applies to all on the payroll, 
and does not include the passengers), the great majority were on 
the catering staff or cleaners of the passenger-compartments, un- 
der the direct control of the Chief Steward who is under the Purser. 
These to a total of some 500 men and women, were concerned in 
no way with the navigation or working of the ship to her destina- 
tion, and we on the bridge had no special interest in them, except 
that they kept us fed. 

Similarly, we had no responsibility for what happened in the 
stokehold down below, where a dozen Engineer Officers controlled 
a staff of 100 firemen and trimmers, working in watches at their 
infernal task of shoveling 350 tons of coal a day into the glowing 
red maws of the twelve boiler-furnaces. 

The number of Able Seamen or deckhands in the Caronia did 
not exceed thirty or forty. These included the six who were rated 
as Quartermasters and qualified to take the wheel. This number 
of seamen, when all were "on stations" with the six Deck Officers 
and the boys, on entering or leaving port, was fully sufficient for 
handling the liner to or from her berth. 

In addition to the seamen or deckcrew proper, there were a 
number of tradesmen and specialists, such as carpenters and join- 
ers, plumbers, fitters, the lamp-trimmer, electricians, the wireless 

164 



operator, the Master at Arms (ship's policeman) and a band of 
twelve musicians! Ours was the first professional orchestra carried 
in a transatlantic liner. 

Though I found these manifold activities of the ship's people 
intensely interesting, I soon realized that my duties and respon- 
sibilities were clearly defined and strictly limited, and not beyond 
my competence with due attention to the specialized tasks that 
were allotted to me. 

After knocking about as First Mate in a rattletrap tramp with 
a Master who was chronically indisposed with rheumatics or 
otherwise, I was now the better able to appreciate the magnificent 
detailed organization of life and work in this stylish grand lady 
of the Western Ocean, surging on so serenely with 3,336 souls in 
her care; and each soul, including my own, as completely organized 
as a bee in a hive, as though by the embodiment of centuries of 
tradition at sea, plus modern progress. 



165 



CHAPTER FOURTEEN 
t 



Divine Service We Sight an Iceberg The Be- 
havior of Bergs Safety at Sea Lifeboats Pas- 
sengers' Questions A Shipboard Concert Ap- 
proaching the American Shore The Destination 
of Columbus Nantucket Shoals Light Vessel 
"Down Easters" Sandy Hook Light Vessel 
We Enter New York Bay That Great Port 
The Narrows The Statue of Liberty We 
Berth at Pier 54. 



ON Sunday morning, the Captain conducted Divine Service in 
the main lounge on the first-class deck, in accordance with the 
rites of the Church of England. This was a duty of all Masters of 
passenger vessels. Some liked to do it, and did it very well. Others 
disliked the job, and would pass it on to anyone else, if possible. 
The story is told of a rough old diamond of a captain (not in 
the Cunard servicel) who had little use for the letter "H" in 
speaking, probably considering it a waste of breath; but he was 
jovially pious, and loved to conduct Divine Service, always with 
hymns of his own choice, which he announced by reading the first 
two lines. His favorite was "Holy, Holy, Holy," which came from 
him as " 'Oly, 'Oly/Oly." 

166 



But sincerity is the main thing, and many a rough shipmaster 
of that breed has conducted not only routine Divine Services, but 
also burials and christenings at sea, with the dignity that comes 
from meeting any occasion with authority. 

With other officers and ship's people, and a goodly number of 
passengers from all three classes, I attended the service, and felt 
the better for it. I have never since missed a Divine Service at sea 
if I could attend. Our vocation is one which gives many reminders 
of the workings of Providence, and most seafarers have a sense of 
reverence due to their constant observation of "the spacious firma- 
ment on high," and of the motions of the earth and of its wide 
waters. 

Even if there happened to be an Anglican or Protestant Episco- 
palian clergyman among the passengers, the Captain usually con- 
ducted the service, as the ship was his parish; but priests, ministers, 
or pastors of various sects were permitted to hold services for their 
own congregations at times and places in the ship announced on 
the notice boards. 

Many people attended Divine Service at sea, who never went to 
church on shore. One man, filling in his entry form for the U.S. 
immigration authorities, put in the column for stating his religion 
Cunarder! 

On that fine and sunny Sunday afternoon, on my first voyage in 
the Caronia, when I was strolling on the boat deck at 3 P.M., put- 
ting in time chatting to passengers before I went on watch at 4 
P.M., the lookout man struck his bell and sang out, "Iceberg fine 
on the starboard bowl" 

The news quickly spread, and soon the rails of the decks on that 
side and forward were lined with passengers eager for a good view 
of the phenomenon, and even more eager to ask questions about 
it of anyone who might know the answers. I was in the firing line, 
and, even though this was the first iceberg that I had seen adrift 
in the North Atlantic, I had a fair amount of general knowledge 
on the subject, and had seen plenty of bergs to the South of Cape 
Horn. 

167 



I have seen more than enough of them since in the North At- 
lantic, and have answered many questions on them. I may there- 
fore interpose some remarks here on their behavior and charac- 
teristics. 

The usual question asked by passengers is one expressing aston- 
ishment that the iceberg season in the North Atlantic is in the 
summer months, from April to September. The inquirers naturally 
associate ice with the winter. 

The answer is simple enough! During winter the bergs are 
frozen in along the Labrador coast, and among the huge fields of 
pack ice offshore, quite immovable. They begin to drift only when 
they thaw, in the Spring. 

The source of these bergs is in the Greenland Ice Cap, which 
covers almost the whole of that large country, most of which lies 
to the north of the Arctic Circle, between the meridians of 20 
and 60 W. longitude that is, centrally placed at the northern 
limit of the Atlantic Ocean. Borings and other methods of in* 
vestigation have revealed that the Greenland Ice Cap is from 1,000 
to 5,000 feet thick, covering mountains which give the icecap a 
summit elevation of over 9,000 feet. 

The ice has been formed by the accumulation of snow through- 
out the ages, compacted by its own weight which in time welds 
the snow crystals into a solid mass of ice. The influence of gravity, 
and internal stresses within the vast sheet of ice, form glaciers, or 
solid rivers or arms of ice, which gradually grind their way down 
valleys and hillslopes to the sea. There the projections become 
waterborne, and huge masses break off, or are "calved," from the 
parent glacier. So icebergs are born, and some of them have been 
estimated to weigh over a million tons. 

The movements of the bergs once they are adrift are controlled 
mainly by the set of the prevailing currents. The effect of wind 
upon their drift is negligible, because, although they attain lengths 
of 400 feet and heights of 200 feet above water, the great part of 
their mass is below water, and therefore subject to the influences of 
currents rather than of winds. But, indirectly, wind directions 
and force may play a part in the migration of bergs by retarding or 
accelerating the currents. 

168 



The average berg floats with seven-eighths of its mass sub- 
merged, but if it is made up of snow not completely compacted 
into ice, or if it is carrying a load of morraine or rock material, 
this figure may be slightly modified. 

I was explaining this to the best of my ability to a charming lady 
passenger in the Caronia as we gazed at the still distant berg on 
our starboard bow, when, after apparently taking the informa- 
tion in and mulling over it for a few minutes, she said, "But what 
happens if the one-eighth above water melts away? You wouldn't 
be able to see the berg at alll" 
I'm still searching for the answer to that one. 
Fortunately, most of the thousands of bergs that become water- 
borne from Greenland are carried by the prevailing currents to 
run aground on the Labrador shore, or in the Strait of Belle Isle, 
or on the shore of Newfoundland, or on the Newfoundland Banks. 
There they are frozen in, during the winter months, and may melt 
there in the Spring, without going far adrift into the open ocean. 
About one thousand bergs each year reach the Newfoundland 
Banks and ground there, but about three hundred drift south- 
wards past the eastern edge of the Banks, and these become a 
menace to shipping until they disintegrate in the warm waters of 
the Gulf Stream. A large berg will dwindle away in two or three 
weeks. As it melts, pieces break off, and the berg rolls about in 
its new shape, adjusting itself to a new center of gravity. When 
the berg calves, the pieces that break off are called "growlers." 

In 1907 there was no International Ice Patrol to keep systematic 
watch on these beautiful but sinister things, and to warn shipping 
by radio of their exact position and southern limit, as there is 
today. Such information was passed from ship to ship whenever 
possible, but oceanographers had charted the approximate south- 
ern limits of the bergs in the Northwestern Atlantic, in the vicinity 
of lat. 40 deg. N., between the meridians of 40 and 70 deg. W. 
longitude. 

The bergs having reached the Gulf Stream to the south of the 
Newfoundland Banks are then carried by that current in a gen- 
eral N.E, direction, to melt and thus to be returned, as it were, 
to the Arctic. This leaves the N.E. region of the Atlantic, on the 

169 



European side, free of bergs. But the "limit lines" drawn by hy- 
drographers were not entirely reliable before the Ice Patrol was 
established. Freak bergs were occasionally reported south of those 
limits, and one berg actually reached the Azores before disinte- 
grating. It was probably an exceptionally hard block, of some 
peculiar shape which caused it to drift rapidly; or it may have 
been caught in some eddy of the Gulf Stream. 

The iceberg that we sighted in the Caronia was at first visible, 
at a distance of eighteen miles, as a bright flicker on the horizon, 
which became a white smudge as the liner forged ahead toward 
it, and then gradually revealed itself in all its sinister beauty of 
pinnacles and glistening prisms as we approached within five 
miles. 

At this time I went on watch on the bridge, and had a good 
look at it through the telescope. Bergs are visible at great dis- 
tances in dear weather in daytime, and even in moonlight they 
stand out clearly at several miles distance, for they refract light. 
On a dark clear night a berg can be seen from half a mile away. 

In all these cases they are easily avoided. The danger is in fog 
or on dark overcast nights. In such conditions a shipmaster should 
reduce speed to slow, or should stop if he is within the iceberg 
region, in the season when they are adrift, or if he has been 
warned that they are in the vicinity, and he should remain hove 
to until visibility improves sufficiently to enable him to proceed. 
He should do this irrespective of any desire to ''break records" or 
make a passage. Such was the correct procedure before radar 
enabled icebergs or other solid objects to be "seen" in the dark 
or in fog. 

Without radar, there was no reliable method of detecting bergs 
ahead in darkness or fog. Water temperature and air temperature 
are no guides. The presence of "growlers" (small lumps of ice 
grinding against the ship's hull plates) is a strong indication of 
a berg to windward, or in the line of drift; but these may be the 
fragments of a berg in the last stages of disintegration. They 
should be treated with extreme caution anyway. 

In the dear sunlight we were in no danger of collision, and had 

170 



to alter course only slightly to give the berg a sufficiently wide 
berth. We passed it at a distance of one mile, and it made an 
enthralling spectacle for the passengers, who gathered in groups 
excitedly discussing it. The ship's barber took photographs of it, 
which he had for sale next day, doing a roaring trade. My impres- 
sion was that he had faked the prints with ingenious retouching, 
to make the berg appear much larger than it looked to the un- 
prejudiced eye. 

When we were abeam of the berg, it obliged us by calving and 
rolling over. It split with a series of reports like rifle shots, and 
its pinnacles fell with mighty splashes. A fresh breeze was blow- 
ing and moderate seas running, so that a surf was breaking around 
the base of the berg. This is one of the indications of a berg in 
those conditions, as the surf line can be seen even at nighttime; 
but in a calm sea at nighttime, that indication would be lack- 
ing. . . . 

Next afternoon at 3:30, when I was again strolling on the boat 
deck before going on watch, the same charming lady who had 
interrogated me on the previous day now renewed the quiz. This 
time she had an equally charming friend with her, and their sub- 
ject of discourse was the alarming one, "What would have hap- 
pened if we had hit the berg?" 

I had to explain that such a disaster had never happened to 
any large transatlantic liner, and only once or twice in smaller 
steamers. It was unlikely to happen, because of the special pre- 
cautions taken on lookout in liners in the ice region, during the 
iceberg season, and the easy maneuverability of steamers under 
way in the open ocean. 

Collisions between sailing vessels and icebergs, I continued, had 
occurred many times to the southward of Cape Horn, when the 
vessels were driving on in a howling blizzard, running before the 
wind with visibility nil at nighttime. In such a collision the ves- 
sel was invariably lost with all hands, since lifeboats could not 
live in the mountainous seas and howling gales which had caused 
the collisions to occur. 

This explanation turned the subject naturally to our lifeboats, 

171 



which were slung in davits, in a double tier, along each side 
of the Caronia's boatdeck, too conveniently near to where we 
stood to be avoided as a conversational topic. The liner carried 
forty boats, each capable of accommodating forty persons. That 
is, if the order were given to abandon ship for any reason, and 
to take to the boats, there would be accommodation in the boats 
for only half of the 3,336 souls aboard the liner. 

This deficiency was in no sense unusual or contrary to prevail- 
ing practice. The ship and her lifeboats were inspected and ap- 
proved by the Board of Trade and conformed in every way with 
laws, rules, and regulations, and all other requirements of that 
period. The rules and regulations were a legacy of bygone years, 
when ships were much smaller and carried far fewer souls than 
the transatlantic Ocean Grayhounds. The lifeboat accommoda- 
tions in Cunarders was similar to that in all other large liners, 
that is, capable of carrying one-half of the total ship's company. 

It had not occurred to anyone in authority, either ashore or 
afloat, that this was a portentous lapse in logic, capable in the 
event of a disaster, such as fire at sea, collision with an iceberg or 
a derelict, or the foundering of the vessel from, any cause, of 
dooming one-half of the ship's company to a watery grave. 

No one could be blamed for the apparent lack of forethought or 
imagination in this regard. Forty lifeboats slung in double tiers 
on the boatdeck and afterdeck of the Caronia occupied the whole 
of the available space for boats under davits. The problem of 
providing sufficient lifeboat accommodation for the entire ship's 
company in a large liner, was a difficult one in marine architec- 
tural design. A very large number of cork lifebelts were provided 
in the Caronia, more than sufficient for the entire ship's company; 
and in the event of wreck there was much buoyant material handy 
from which rafts could be constructed if time permitted; still, the 
lifeboats could not carry more than one-half of the total number 
of souls in the ship. 

Nowadays, after the drastic experiences of two world wars and 
some few marine disasters in peacetime, passenger ships carry life- 
boats for all, and also rafts with buoyancy tanks stowed on the 

172 



upper decks, so that there is floatage for the entire ship's com- 
pany. 

Under peacetime conditions, and with modern navigational aids 
and safety precautions, sea travel has become practically 100 per 
cent safe. It is by far the safest method of traveling known on 
this planet. Excluding wartime hazards and disasters, the loss 
of life at sea in modern large mechanically propelled vessels in 
peacetime is virtually nil; and on any calculation sea travelers 
take far less risks than travelers by railroad, automobile, or air- 
craft transport, or than pedestrians crossing roads! 

From this point of view it may fairly be claimed that human life 
nowadays is nowhere more safe (in peacetime) than in a passenger 
liner at sea; but this safety was by no means as well established 
in 1907 as it is today. It had to be won, like many other advantages 
of modern life, at the price of bitter experience and the lessons 
to be derived therefrom. 

Considering the millions of passengers who have been trans- 
ported across the Atlantic in steamers in nearly 120 years of steam- 
driven traffic on that route, the losses of life at sea, even including 
those in wartime, are an infinitesimal proportion of the whole. 
The peacetime disasters have been relatively few, and have "made 
news" because they are untypical. 

The fact remained that any passenger embarking in a large 
liner in 1907, and in that period generally, had to take the risk 
of being among the one-half of the ship's company for whom life- 
boat accommodation was not provided. The fair chance was that 
a disaster would not occur on a transatlantic crossing, and that 
was rightly considered a more than 99.9 per cent certainty. 

But my inquisitors demanded to be told everything. "How many 
people does a life boat hold? What provisions does it carry?" 

Fortunately for me, Chief Officer Protheroe, who was also going 
on watch at 4 P.M., happened along on his way to the bridge, and 
halted for a moment to pass the time of day with the fair charmers, 
who, seeing the three gold stripes on his sleeve and his maturity 
so obviously greater than mine, thrust this question at him: "What 
food would there be if we had to take to the lifeboats?" 

173 



"Well," said Protheroe, contemplatively, "there's fresh water, 
an d ah-h biscuits. But," he added, a little apologetically, 
"there's no menu, you knowl" 

Then we excused ourselves and went on watch. 

That evening at 8 P.JVC. there was a concert in the biggest lounge, 
with a collection in aid of seamen's charities. Among the passen- 
gers was a celebrated operatic soprano, who had kindly consented 
to sing at the concert. With such a star in the program, there 
would be no doubt of a "full house." 

I was on watch on the bridge until 8 P.M. The weather was calm. 
With the usual lookouts set, we were belting along at full speed, 
and the liner was breasting the swells with scarcely any rolling 
or pitching. When I came off watch, I immediately made my way 
to the lounge, to enjoy my first shipboard concert, keenly look- 
ing forward to hearing the great soprano. 

There was standing-room only in the lounge, but I managed to 
squeeze in. On the dais was a grand piano, secured to the deck. 
Captain Pritchard was present, supporting the chairman of the 
Passengers' Committee which had organized the concert. Our or- 
chestra was playing a lively overture. 

Then followed several "items" of varying quality, including 
recitations, solos, duets, conjuring acts, and comic songs, all en- 
thusiastically received. At last came the great moment, when the 
Chairman had the very great pleasure and privilege of introduc- 
ing the world-famous Madame Rosario, who would oblige with 
the tragic aria from the "mad scene" of Lucia di Lammermoor 

The diva, who was of ample proportions, and gloriously 
gowned, bowed charmingly to acknowledge the rapturous ap- 
plause that greeted her. Her accompanist took his seat at the piano, 
and soon her superb voice was soaring and trilling in the ecstacy 
of artistry, to bring tears to the eyes of all but the case-hardened 
or tone-deaf. 

As she reached the coda, something happened up on the bridge. 
The lookout man, having sighted the dim sidelight of a full-rigged 
sailing vessel standing across our bows less than half-a-mile ahead, 

174 




Atlantic iceberg, with Ice Patrol aircraft. 



U.i>. Coast Guard photo 




U.S. Coast Guard photo 

Atlantic iceberg, with Ice Patrol vessel alongside. 




5.5. Lusitania passing the Old Head of Kinsdale. 



Cunard Line photo 




5.5. Mauretania in the Tyne River, 1906. 



Cunard Line photo 



had instantly alerted the officer of the watch, who at once reacted 
by ordering, "Hard-a-starboardl" 

The helmsman spun the wheel, and the liner instantly answered 
the helm. At her speed of eighteen knots, this sudden alteration 
of course caused her to list heavily to starboard. 

In the main lounge, the effect of this maneuver was tremendous. 
Within a few seconds, the audience, the singer, the orchestra, 
about 200 chairs and tables, and innumerable glasses and coffee 
sets were precipitated in a struggling heap over to the starboard 
side of the lounge. 

It looked like a panic, but the ship righted herself quickly. 
Realizing what had happened, Captain Pritchard picked up the 
capsized singer, whispered something reassuring to her, and per- 
suaded her to return to the platform. There, though shaken, she 
too showed fine professional self-control, and smiled theatrically, 
but at the same time clung with a strong grip to the Captain's 
arm. 

The Captain called for silence in a voice that had been well 
trained also in Cape Horn gales. At this command, the shaken 
audience became silently attentive. "Ladies and gentlemen/' the 
Captain announced, "there is positively no need for alarm. The 
concert will continue, and I should like to say that in the whole 
of my seagoing career I have never seen an audience moved as 
we have been moved by Madame's singing this evening!" 

There was a burst of laughter and applause, and all traces of 
panic vanished. The stewards rushed in, and soon put things to 
rights. The concert continued, with an encore from the singer, 
who, like the ship, was on an even keel again. 

On the sixth day out, as we began to approach the American 
shore, we sighted several sailing vessels ("skysail yarders") stand- 
ing away to the southeastward, outward bound ("down East") 
on their long haul around Cape Horn, from the ports of Nova 
Scotia, the Bay of Fundy, Maine, New Hampshire, or Massachu- 
setts, or homeward bound after voyages of three months or more 
from the Pacific each voyage an epic of skill and endurance, 
if its story could be adequately chronicled. 

175 



Now, too, we sighted many steamers, converging to or diverg- 
ing on various courses from those ports and from New York and 
the ports of the Southern United States. The ocean was thronged 
here, and we were crossing the Gulf Stream. 

A lady passenger remarked to one of our Senior Officers, "Isn't 
it wonderful how Columbus discovered America?" 

To this the officer replied, as courteously as possible, "It would 
have been even more wonderful if he had missed itl" 

During the night we passed the Nantucket Shoals Light Vessel, 
the first landmark of America, some 200 miles offshore. When I 
came on watch at dawn we were steaming westwards in sight of 
dozens of vessels of all kinds, including Down Easters out of New 
York, New Haven, and Newport, and fishing trawlers, schooner 
rigged, making for or returning from the Newfoundland Banks. 
At intervals we sighted other liners, and a great variety of tramps. 
There was no doubt of the nearness of land, as thousands of the 
smaller kinds of seabirds wheeled in the sky, ready to pounce for 
scraps in the wake of ships, or on unwary fish. 

It was a fine sunny day. The engineers had been warned of our 
expected time of arrival, and at 9:30 A.M. we began to reduce 
speed. At 10 A.M. we stopped abeam of the Sandy Hook Light 
Vessel (nine miles offshore) which in those days was the recognized 
end of the Blue Riband run. Here we took on the New York 
Harbor pilot, and went on stations. In another half hour we 
were rounding Sandy Hook to enter New York Lower Bay by the 
Main Channel. 

America, here we come! The Main Channel trends sharply al- 
most due North within the Lower Bay, and, in another hour, with 
tugs standing by, we were steering through the Narrows (one mile 
wide), between Staten Island and Long Island, to enter the Upper 
Bay. 

Here we stopped and anchored at quarantine, while the medical 
and immigration authorities examined passengers and crew. Tend- 
ers also came alongside and took off our mailbags. These pro- 
cedures took several hours, and then we got under way, and pro- 
ceeded to the pier. 

176 



New York has the biggest and best sheltered deepwater harbor 
accommodation of all the world's great seaports, and this is one 
of the prime facts which has made New York City what it is: the 
portal of America. The distance within the Upper Bay, from the 
Narrows to the southern tip of Manhattan Island, is seven miles 
N. by E., but the great port with its many bays has 520 miles 
of sheltered navigable waterways (measured along bulkheads and 
shorelines), and 200 deepwater piers. 

The geographical layout of Manhattan Island, which is virtually 
a narrow peninsula of solid rock, between the Hudson River and 
the East River (a continuation of Long Island Sound), projecting 
sharply into the Upper Bay, enables vessels of the largest size to 
be berthed, as it were, in or at the city itself, in a fashion that is 
possible in few other great seaport cities. 

This was the port that Henry Hudson, an Englishman in the 
service of the Dutch East India Company, discovered when he 
brought his little ship, Half Moon, into the Upper Bay in 1609. 
(The entrance to the Lower Bay was charted by the Spaniards a 
century previously, but it was Hudson who found the channel 
through the shoals off Sandy Hook.) 

The Dutch settled here in 1614, and later named the place 
New Amsterdam. The English threw them out in 1664, altering 
the name to New York. Then the Americans threw the English 
out in 1776, but kept the English name. 

The Statue of Liberty beckoned us in. It was erected on Bedloes 
Island in the Upper Bay in 1876, the gift of France to commemo- 
rate the first centenary of American independence. May it be 
there, too, at the second centenary, and for many more centenaries 
beyond that! No one who first sights from seaward this colossal 
bronze image of the Goddess holding aloft her torch, with the 
skyscrapers of Manhattan beyond, Jersey City to port and Brook- 
lyn to starboard, can fail to heed the message that is framed in 
her lips: Welcome! 

I have seen her from that aspect many times in my forty years 
of service in Cunarders crossing the Atlantic, and always she is 
the symbol of everything that is best and biggest in America, the 
real America . . . 

177 



And her eyelids are unwearied. 

We berthed at Pier 54, in the Hudson River, at the foot of West 
Fourteenth Street. Down went the gangways and two thousand 
New Americans streamed ashore. 



178 



CHAPTER FIFTEEN 



New York in the Horse Days Some Things 
Have ChangedrThe Cunard Fleet in 1907 
Shipping Competition in the North Atlantic 
The White Star Line Pierpont Morgan's "Com- 
bine 91 The American Line Government Sub- 
sidles to Cunard The Twenty Years Agreement 
The Hamburg-Amerika Line Norddeutscher 
Lloyd The French Line Rivalry and Prestige. 



ANY young person who knows New York in the middle of the 
twentieth century may find it difficult to imagine that busy city as 
it was in the preautomobile age. 

That was how I first saw it in 1907. There were very few auto- 
mobiles, and those were "gas-buggies" of primitive design, the 
playthings of the rich or of mechanical experimenters, who were 
stared at, laughed at, and frequently sworn at, as they spluttered 
along, frightening horses and pedestrians. The drivers, perched on 
high seats, exposed to the elements, wore long "dust-coats/* gog- 
gles, and motoring-caps to protect themselves and their clothes 
from oil, grease, and dust. But this was a rare sight, as practically 
all the traffic in New York was horse-drawn. 

There were no flashing stop-go signs. Hundreds of crossing- 
sweepers, with brooms, shovels, and handcarts, gathered horse 

179 



manure in tons on Fifth Avenue. Fashionable ladies swept the 
dusty sidewalks with the hems of their ankle-length dresses; their 
waists were dawn in with corsets and belts, and their bosoms en- 
cased in tight-laced whalebone stays; their sleeves extended to the 
wrists; their necks were swathed in high collars; they wore big 
hats, usually adorned with ostrich plumes; and most women out- 
of-doors covered their faces in veils, to protect their complexions 
from the city's dust. Horn-rimmed glasses were unknown, and 
would have been considered grotesque and horrible. Very few 
people wore glasses, except for reading. 

Important men wore bell-topper hats and frock coats, with tight 
fitting dark or striped trousers, ankle-boots, starched shirts and 
collars, cravats with jewel-pins and almost invariably carried 
canes. Less important men wore bowler hats and sack suits, but 
in summer straw "boater" hats were numerous. The lower orders 
usually wore cloth caps. Boys and girls had button-up boots, and 
long stockings. Most boys wore knickerbockers, buttoned below 
the knees. 

Many men wore beards, and waxed mustaches were extra smart. 
There were no cinema-palaces, soda-fountains, cafeterias, or su- 
permarkets. At the piers downtown, dozens of Cape Horn sailing 
vessels were berthed, their tall top hamper an intricate and beauti- 
ful pattern against the sky. 

It would seem that almost everything in New York has changed, 
except the Statue of Liberty and the cigar-store Indians. 

Yet, the more New York changes, the more it is the same. Even 
in 1907 there were skyscrapers though not piled in such profu- 
sion or height as the tremendous Towers of Babel there today. 
Wall Street was a canyon; Broadway at nighttime a blaze of 
lights; the Bronx was both respectable and tough; and the Bow- 
ery as lively then as now, or livelier. The Elevated Railroad made 
the world's loudest clatter along Sixth Avenue; its passengers 
had interesting views into apartments along the route; and Times 
Square, where park bench philosophers meditated and fed the 
birds, was a green oasis, surrounded by the crags of Big Business. 

The Caronia lay at Pier 54 for a week, and sailed for Liverpool 
on the following Wednesday, when the Carmania came in, and 

180 



we met her in the Lower Bay. The midweek service was main- 
tained by four Cunard liners, each taking seven days on the pas- 
sage, eastbound or westbound, and remaining in port seven days 
at each end of the run. On this service there were, at any time, one 
vessel at sea eastbound, one at sea westbound, one in port at Liver- 
pool, and one in port at New York. The Caronia and Carmania 
were supported in the "midweek" service by two elderly but fast 
Cunarders, the Umbria and the Etruria, single-screw steamers o 
8,120 tons famous sister ships, launched in 1884-85, which, de- 
spite their age, could maintain the average of 18 knots necessary 
to make the crossing in seven days and so meet the requirements 
of the mail contract 

The Friday sailings from New York and Liverpool were more 
stylish, as these were maintained by the Lusitania and the Maure- 
tania, which, at normal service speeds of 23 knots, could make the 
crossing in five days. In theory, these two great sisters could have 
carried on the regular service by themselves, each with a stay of 
two days in port at each end, but in practice this was not enough 
time for discharging and loading cargo, handling mails, baggage, 
and passengers off and on, and coaling, watering, cleaning, and 
provisioning. Therefore, a third vessel alternated with them on 
the Friday sailings either the Campania or Lucanta, twin-screw 
steamers of 12,950 tons, sister ships which, launched in 189S, had 
service speeds of 22 knots, and could do the crossing in 5^ days. 

This arrangement meant that each of the vessels in this service, 
arriving on Wednesdays, lay nine days in port before her next Fri- 
day sailing-day came. This was a waste of time, but inevitable for 
smooth working of the regular passenger-and-mail service. It had 
already become obvious that the ideal of maintaining regular 
weekly sailings from both ends, with only two vessels, would re- 
quire service speeds of 29 or 30 knots, enabling the crossing to be 
made in four days an ideal that seemed a wild dream. 

The Cunard Line therefore had seven or eight mail steamers 
operating between Liverpool and New York, to maintain a twice- 
weekly service from both ends, with sailings on Wednesdays and 
Fridays, and calling at Queenstown for Irish passengers and mails. 
In addition, two or three Cunard Liners operated a service be- 

181 



tween Liverpool and Boston, sometimes calling at Halifax. These 
included the Ivernia and the Saxonia, twin-screw steamers of ap- 
proximately 14,000 tons, launched in 1900, but capable of service 
speeds of only 15 knots, and therefore requiring eight days for the 
crossing too slow for the New York mail run. 

Four or five Cunarders were engaged on the run from Mediter- 
ranean ports direct to New York, chiefly with emigrants and cargo. 
These included the Ultonia, the Carpathia, the Pannonia, and the 
Slavonic, vessels of from 10,000 to 13,000 tons, with speeds of 
from 12 to 14 knots comparative slowcoaches, and more service- 
able than stylish. 

Seven small vessels, averaging 3,000 tons, with speeds of only 
eight to ten knots, operated a cargo service between Liverpool 
and Mediterranean ports. 

The Cunard Line thus had nineteen steamers in regular serv- 
ice, of which eleven or twelve called at New York. It was not un- 
common to see three or more Cunarders lying at adjacent berths 
at the foot of West Fourteenth Street. 

The paintwork of Cunard ships was (and is) of a striking com- 
bination of colors. The funnels are red, with a broad band of black 
at the top, and two or three thin black rings; the masts and der- 
ricks golden brown which we called "Mast Color"; the super- 
structure, boats, and ventilators white (with red inside the ventila- 
tor cowls); the hull black, with a white line between the topsides 
and a red boot-topping. 

If further means of identification were necessary, the Cunard 
house flag fluttered at the mainmast head the golden lion ramp- 
ant on a red ground, holding a golden globe in his paws known 
to Liverpool wits as "the monkey with the nut." 

On the staff at the stern was the "red duster" the ensign of 
the British mercantile marine. In some of the ships, in which the 
Captain and a certain number of the officers and men belonged 
to the Royal Naval Reserve, the Blue Ensign could be worn, 
by permission of the Admiralty. When we were bound for New 
York, until we berthed, Old Glory was worn at our foremast head. 
Then it was lowered, and the Union Flag of Great Britain was 
hoisted there, indicating our next country of destination. 

182 



Between May 21 and July 25, 1907, 1 made three voyages to New 
York as Fourth Officer in the Caronia, acquiring basic knowledge 
that eventually would become mere routine, in the years ahead 
of me. In port I had opportunities of going aboard the Mauretania 
and the Lusitania and of seeing their splendors for the first time 
at close quarters. I went aboard other Cunarders, and also ves- 
sels of the White Star Line and of the German and French lines, 
which were in keen competition and rivalry with us, and I learned 
something then, by firsthand observation, of the intensity of that 
competition which spurred the men in all Atlantic liners to their 
utmost efforts to be excellent. 

The White Star Line was our chief competitor under the British 
flag, the more so as it was a Liverpool company, operating directly 
in competition with the Cunarders on the Liverpool to New York 
service. The name "White Star" referred to the house flag a large 
five-pointed white star on a red burgee (pennant), which had been 
first used by the Liverpool firm of Pilkington and Wilson in their 
fleet of fast sailing vessels carrying passengers, mails, and cargo to 
Australia during the gold rush of the 1850s. 

In 1867, Thomas Henry Ismay had formed the Oceanic Steam 
Navigation Company, and bought the White Star line and its 
flag. Most of the White Star steamers were built by Harland and 
Wolff at Belfast, and all had names ending in -c. They had en- 
tered the transatlantic service in the 1870's, with the Oceanic, and 
other fast, luxuriously appointed ships, which were built bigger 
and bigger as time went on. White Star steamers ran also to 
Australia, via South Africa. The second Oceanic, 17,274 tons, 
launched in 1899, was the biggest ship in the world at that time. 
She was still in service, on the Liverpool to New York run, in 
1907, as also were the Celtic (20,904 tons), the Cedric (21,035 tons), 
the Arabic (15,801 tons), the Republic (15,378 tons), and the Baltic 
(23,876 tons). The latest addition to the fleet was the Adriatic 
(24,541 tons), launched in 1907. 

These were big and comfortable vessels, with speeds of from 
fifteen to twenty knots. Though none of them had actually held 
the Blue Riband, they had provided, for many years, like the 
Cunarders, in regular rotation, twice-a-week sailings from Liver- 

183 



pool and New York, and had an excellent reputation. We had got 
ahead of them in size and speed with the Mauretania and Lusi- 
tania; but, in April, 1907, the White Star Line gained an ad- 
vantage by rerouting from Southampton, via Cherbourg, to New 
York. This route provided quicker access for Americans to Lon- 
don and Paris than we provided with our terminal at Liverpool. 

It was announced that the White Star line intended to build 
two gigantic liners, each of over 45,000 tons, which would be by 
far the biggest and fastest ships in the world, and the most luxuri- 
ously fitted . . . the Olympic . . . and the Titanic. . . . 

Behind the scenes in this intense competition were the efforts of 
the American financier, J. Pierpont Morgan, to form an interna- 
tional shipping combine. He and his associates, having already 
amalgamated many of the American railroad companies into a 
combine, attempted in 1902 and the ensuing years to merge the 
shipping companies of the North Atlantic into a similar cartel 
or group, which was named the International Mercantile Marine. 
They bought or gained majority share control of the White Star 
Line and of several other companies, including the Inman (an 
American company), the Red Star, Dominion, Atlantic Transport, 
and Leyland Lines, and some other smaller companies, and made 
strenuous efforts to induce the Cunard Line, the two big German 
Lines, and the French Line, to join the combine. 

The immense and ambitious scheme would have obvious finan- 
cial advantages to the shareholders of the merged companies 
bigger dividends from monopoly or near-monopoly control, 
greater working efficiency and the elimination of cutthroat com- 
petition, plus probably the jacking up of fares and freights if all 
or nearly all the big companies could be brought into the combine. 

But the British, German, and French governments sensed the 
danger of allowing the biggest and best ships under their national 
flags to pass into foreign control. The International Mercantile 
Marine (I.M.M.) was, in the final resort, American owned, and 
was known as the "American Line." Yet, with shrewd diplomacy, 
the organizers of the combine allowed the ships of each of the 
companies in the merger to retain their previous national regis- 
trations, house flags, and identities, and to continue as before, to 

184 



all external appearances. All that was altered was the financial 
control, which would gradually be made effective in practical con- 
trol and reorganization of the services. 

The implied threat to the companies which stayed outside the 
merger was that they would be squeezed out of the Atlantic trade 
by the financial weight of the combine. From the points of view 
of the British, German, and French governments, it was not only 
desirable, but essential that merchant ships under their flags 
should be available in time of war for use as troop transports, 
hospital ships, or as armed merchant cruisers. For this reason, the 
British Government offered the Cunard Line a substantial induce- 
ment to remain outside the I.M.M. combine. 

As early as 1893, the Lucania and the Campania had been built 
under Admiralty supervision, to serve as armed merchant cruisers 
if required, with a Government subsidy of 7,500 pounds a year 
for each vessel. Several Cunard liners had been chartered as troop 
transports during the South African War of 1899-1901. 

When the Pierpont Morgan group in 1902 attempted to bring 
the Cunard Line into the LM.M. merger, the British Government 
countered with an offer to lend the Cunard Company two-and-a- 
half million pounds (repayable over twenty years), to enable two 
new giant liners to be built, which would also be suitable for use 
as auxiliary cruisers in wartime. It was in this way that the Maure- 
tania and the Ltisitania had been designed, built, and launched in 
1906. Further, under a twenty years agreement, the Government 
paid the Cunard Company an annual subsidy of 150,000 pounds 
for the maintenance of these two ships. In consideration of these 
benefits, plus the mail contracts, Cunard undertook to remain out- 
side the LM.M. combine, and to retain its British ownership, and 
to put its fleet on charter at the disposal of the British Government 
in a national emergency. 

The German and French governments also intervened, with 
subsidies or other inducements, to prevent the principal com- 
panies under their flags from joining the LM.M. combine. These 
interventions prevented Pierpont Morgan's merger from attain- 
ing anything like monopoly control of shipping in the North 
Atlantic. The "American line," including die White Star ships, 

185 



became in effect only one of five big companies keenly competing 
on the transatlantic routes. The others were the Cunard Line, the 
Hamburg-Amerika Line, the Norddeutscher Lloyd, and the 
French Line (Compagnie G6tirale Transatlantique). 

German seamanship has always been of high efficiency. In the 
late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the famous "P" line 
of sailing vessels on the Cape Horn route included the biggest and 
best appointed wind-driven craft ever launched. As early as 1847 
(only seven years after the Cunard steamship service was in- 
augurated), the Hamburg-Amerika line had put its first steamers 
on the American run. This company in 1907 had ten beautiful 
liners maintaining a twice-weekly schedule between Hamburg and 
New York. These included five older vessels of 12,000 tons, and 
one, the Deutschland, of 16,000 tons, all very smartly appointed. 

The four biggest and newest vessels in this fleet shone in any 
company, and were firm favorites among transatlantic travelers in 
both directions. One of them, the Amerika (22,225 tons), launched 
in 1905, was built by Harland and Wolff, at Belfast. The other 
three were built in Germany. They were the Kaiserin Augusta 
(24,581 tons, launched in 1906), and the President Lincoln and 
President Grant, each of 18,000 tons, launched in 1907. Though 
fast and very comfortable, none of these vessels ever held the Blue 
Riband. 

The other big German Company, Norddeutscher Lloyd, of 
Bremen, had begun steamship services to New York in 1857, and 
had a fine record of achievement. In 1907 there were four N.D.L. 
ships maintaining a once-a-week service between Bremen and 
New York, with calls at Southampton and Cherbourg. 

The Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse (14,349 tons) launched in 1897, 
took the Blue Riband of the Atlantic in that year with a speed of 
21.91 knots. The Kronprinz Wilhelm (14,908 tons) was launched 
in 1903. The Kaiser Wilhelm II (19,361 tons) launched in 1903, 
took the Blue Riband in that year with a speed of 22.60 knots, 
which was also a "record" passage, and she surpassed this record 
in 1906, with a speed of 23.58 knots. This was almost equaled by 
the Lusitania on her maiden voyage in 1907, with a crossing at 

186 



23.10 knots, and narrowly beaten in that same year by the Maure- 
tania, with a speed of 23.69 knots. 

Such was the rivalry of the times. The fourth and newest Nord- 
deutscher Lloyd liner was the Kronprinzessin Cecilie (19,400 tons), 
launched in 1907. She attained average service speeds of 22 knots, 
but never took the Blue Riband or set a record. Our Mauretania 
was the crack liner of them all, but the two German companies 
together, with fourteen liners in service, and sailings thrice a week, 
provided very serious competition that kept standards of service 
high and fares low. They were transporting hundreds of thousands 
of emigrants from Europe to America yearly, at cut rates, besides 
providing luxurious first-class and cabin accommodation. 

The French Line at this time was providing a once-a-week serv- 
ice between Le Havre and New York, with three medium sized but 
stylish liners La Lorraine (11,146 tons), La Savoie (11,168 tons), 
and La Provence (13,753 tons), the last named of these being quite 
new, launched in 1906. But the French were also planning big- 
ship construction, and had a vessel of 23,000 tons, La France, on 
the stocks. 

In all, there were thirty-seven smart and big liners on the North 
Atlantic run to New York, of which nineteen were British, fourteen 
German, and four French, in addition to a number of smaller 
passenger-steamers Norwegians, Russians (Finns), Italians, and 
others. 

Truly, New York attracted ships like a magnet, for it was the 
portal of Great America, the up-and-coming Land of Opportunity. 
There was intense but friendly rivalry and keen competition be- 
tween the shipping lines, which continued until the outbreak of 
war in 1914. Each was striving to excel, but, in those days of unre- 
stricted immigration to the U.S.A., there seemed to be scope for 
an ever increasing expansion, with no limit to the size and speed 
of ships that would be built in the contest for maritime supremacy, 
and for national prestige. 



187 



CHAPTER SIXTEEN 



Transferred to the "Ultonia" The McKinley 
Tariffs and American Overseas Trade A Vet- 
eran Captain Austrians, Hungarians, and Ital- 
ians Confiscating Colts Meals in an Emigrant 
Ship Gibraltar "See Naples and Die!" 
Home at Sea Stromboli's Fiery Breath Scylla 
and Charybdis Messina The Adriatic Emi- 
grants and Trachoma A Cure for Seasickness 
Ellis Island. 



ARRIVING in New York on my third voyage in the Caronia, on 
July 25, 1907, 1 was transferred to the Ultonia, as Fourth Officer, 
to relieve her Fourth Officer, who had been away from his home 
in Liverpool for a year, on the Mediterranean to New York run. 

This was an Irishman's rise for me; the Ultonia was an "old 
tub/ 1 compared with the stylish Caronia. But my opinions of my 
transfer were better left unexpressed, as I had no choice in the 
matter. It would be a new experience, so I took the announcement 
cheerfully enough, moved my dunnage aboard the Ultonia, and 
began my new duties. 

Launched on the Tyne in 1898, the Ultonia was a twin-screw 
steamer of 10,402 tons, 513 feet long, 57 feet beam, with a speed 

188 



of 12i^ knots. She had one funnel, and carried a crew of 150, with 
accommodation for thirty or forty first-class passengers and 1,000 
third-class, and hold-capacity for 3,000 tons of cargo. For five years 
after her launching, she had been on the Liverpool to Boston run, 
and then was transferred in 1904 to the Mediterranean service, 
carrying chiefly Hungarian and Italian emigrants, general cargo, 
and mails. She was on this service when I joined her. 

A voyage from New York to Trieste, via several Mediterranean 
ports, and return to New York occupied seven weeks. Four 
Cunard steamers maintained a schedule of fortnightly sailings on 
this route, the other three being the Carpathia, the Slavonia, and 
the Pannonia, occasionally relieved by the Saxonia, when one of 
the vessels on the regular run required refit. The service had been 
inaugurated in 1904 under an agreement between the Cunard 
company and the Hungarian Government (one of the components 
of the Empire of Austria-Hungary) for transporting emigrants 
under official supervision. At this time the ports of Trieste and 
Fiume, at the head of the Adriatic Sea, were in the territory of 
Austria-Hungary. 

During ten years, 1904-1914, two million emigrants from Hun- 
gary and Austria were transported to the U.S.A., chiefly by the 
Cunard Adriatic service. In that period, also, two million emi- 
grants from Italy crossed the Western Ocean to America, many of 
them in Cunarders. We carried also Greek emigrants from Corfu, 
and some Spaniards from Almeria. This vast movement of New 
Americans was supplementary to the exodus of emigrants from 
Russia, Germany, the Baltic countries, Britain, Ireland, and 
France, in vessels sailing from the ports of northwestern Europe. 

Truly, America was "the melting pot," and the inscription on 
the base of the Statue of Liberty was apt: 

Give me your tired, your poor, 

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore; 

Send these, the tempest-tossed, to me: 

I lift my lamp beside the golden door. 

189 



The fare from Trieste or Fiume to New York was ten pounds- 
modest enough, as it included board and lodging at sea for three- 
and-a-half weeks on the westward passage but in the aggregate 
of one thousand souls at ten pounds a soul, each voyage was a big 
financial operation, on the scale of monetary values at that time. 
The liners also carried mails and cargo both ways, and eastbound 
passengers who were chiefly former emigrants returning on visits 
to their old homelands. 

When I joined the Ultonia, she was loading cargo. The chief ex- 
ports from the U.S.A. to Mediterranean and other European 
countries were bagged wheat, haled cotton, tobacco, bagged ore, 
pig iron, ingots of copper and other metals, and lumber. Very 
few manufactured articles were being sent from the U.S.A. to 
Europe, where almost every kind of factory product was made 
locally at prices with which American exporters could not com- 
pete. 

In the other direction, the importation of European manufac- 
tured goods to the U.S.A. was curbed by the policy of high pro- 
tection embodied in the McKinley tariffs of 1890. These tariffs 
heavily penalized the import of any manufactured goods which 
would compete with, or undersell, American-made goods. 

In abandoning the policy of "free trade" (a tendency which had 
begun as early as 1861, at the end of the Civil War), the ILS.A. 
had struck a heavy blow at its own mercantile marine, which in 
earlier years had carried "Yankee notions" (hardware novelties) 
to all the world's ports. Under the policy of high protection, return 
cargoes had become increasingly difficult to obtain, and the cargo- 
carrying trade under the American flag was restricted almost to 
coastal traffic, and to the "Down Easters" voyaging between the 
east and west coasts of the U.S.A., via Cape Horn. Even this trade 
was threatened by interior coast-to-coast railroads. 

It was only the massive movement of passengers, namely the 
emigrants from Europe, plus the tourist trade, and the mail- 
services, which enabled the transatlantic shipping services to 
flourish. The cargo was supplementary. It was profitable enough 
on the eastbound route, but harder to obtain on the westbound 
route. 

190 



From Mediterranean ports, we could carry only goods which 
would not be too heavily penalized by the U.S.A/S high protection 
policy. These included dried vine-fruits and figs, olives, olive oil, 
wines, sheet cork (from Spain), cases of oranges and tangerines, 
and casks of fresh grapes (also from Spain). 

The Master of the Ultonia, Captain C. A. Smith, was a jovial 
old-style sailorman. His recollections went back to the iron-hulled, 
clipper-bow, single-screw Cunard liners which used auxiliary sails, 
and even to the last of the iron-hulled paddle-wheelers, the Scotia, 
which was in service until 1878. It was remarkable indeed to 
consider that the Scotia (3,871 tons), with her paddle-wheels and 
sails, took the Blue Riband in 1864 with a speed of 14.54 knots, 
and was faster than any of the screw steamers of her day and for 
twenty years afterwards. In fact, she was faster than the twin- 
screw Ultonia and many others of the Cunard fleet in service in 
1907. 

"Paddles grip the water better than screws. Wind in the sails 
is cheaper than burning coal," Captain Smith said to me, adding, 
"and the clipper bow cuts the seas." 

That was an oldtime sailor's view of the modern progress that 
had discarded paddles, sails, and clipper bows in steamers. The 
main reason for the change in design was the ever-increasing size 
to which passenger liners were being built. Paddles and sails on 
vessels of over 4,000 tons would need to be enlarged in proportion 
until they would become too bulky and unwieldy. 

The use of steel plates (instead of the heavier iron plates), in- 
troduced in the 1880s, had enabled vessels to be built bigger with- 
out too much extra weight in the hull, and this enlargement in 
turn wrote finis to the paddle-and-sail design of the earlier years. 
A further disadvantage of paddle-steamers was that they could not 
lay flush alongside wharves, as screw-steamers can do, for con- 
venience in loading and unloading cargo. (The paddle-boxes pro- 
jected ten feet or more amidships.) 

Captain Smith had a large Roman nose, which had caused him 
to be given (behind his back) the nickname of "Sheeny" Smith, 

191 



but in no sense disrespectfully, for he was a grand old shipmaster 
of the tough and jolly breed, who had been trained in a hard 
school, and could rise to any emergency with the instantly right 
reaction. It was a privilege to serve under his command. 

The Ultonia carried a Chief Officer and four other Deck Of- 
ficers. Chief Officer Simpson ("Simmy") was a rotund, rubicund, 
jovial man, with the twinkling brown eyes of a mischievous 
monkey a fine seaman, but fond of pranks and funny stories. I 
was lucky to be in the four-to-eight watch on the bridge with hint 
when we were on sea routine, as he never allowed anything to put 
hfoyi out of his good temper. 

The First Officer, Edgar Britten, then thirty-three years of age, 
was a keen man, who had been in sail for nine years before joining 
the Cunard service in 1901. He was well on his way up the ladder 
of promotion which would eventually bring him to the highest 
post of responsibility in the Cunard service, and a knighthood. 

We were a cheerful crowd. The Second Officer was known as 
"Silent" Lewis the most talkative man I have ever met. He was 
elderly, and had been passed over for promotion for many years, 
probably on account of his gift of the gab. He had never heeded 
the proverbs, "A still tongue maketh a wise head," or, " 'Tis better 
to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth 
and leave no doubt of it." His talkativeness was in no sense ma- 
licious, but merely affable and excessive. 

The Third Officer, "Peddlar" Hughes, and I, as Fourth Officer, 
stood watch on the bridge as juniors or assistants, never in charge 
of a watch. All Deck Officers and deckhands were on stations when 
entering or leaving port, and on the same routine as that in the 
Caronia when the liner was at sea. Our boatswain was a Greek 
a right seaman of the Cape Horn breed. We carried three doctors 
one Scottish (Dr. Mclntyre), one Hungarian, and one Italian 
and similarly the Masters at Arms, the pursers' clerks, and the 
catering staffs and stewards included Hungarians and Italians, be- 
sides British. 

In the earlier years of the Cunard Adriatic service, brawls had 
occurred on shipboard between emigrants of Italian nationality 
and those of Austrian-Hungarian nationality. These brawls were 

192 



due to national tensions and enmity. To avoid them, the Com- 
pany's agents at Trieste and Fiume would fill a ship, if possible, 
with Austrians and Hungarians, supplemented, if necessary for 
a full ship, with Serbians and Greeks, on the westbound passage; 
and reserved the bookings on other ships exclusively for Italians. 
Sailing day came, and our eastbound passengers from New York 
streamed up the gangway. The third-dass passengers were nearly 
all Italians, who had lived for some years in America, and were 
now returning to Italy to visit their parents or other relatives and 
friends. They were laden with gifts, and it was known that many 
of them carried revolvers. What better present to take to the old 
folks at home than an American Colt? 

But, at the head of the gangway, the ship's police frisked every 
passenger and temporarily confiscated dozens of revolvers. There 
were agonized protests, but it was explained that the weapons 
would be handed back to their owners when the passengers disem- 
barked at Naples. A numbered check-ticket was given for each re- 
volver seized, and the duplicate chits put under the trigger. This 
was done at the suggestion of the Italian police in Naples, but the 
passengers were unaware of that. The Captain had the absolute 
right to refuse to admit armed persons on board. It was no use 
arguing, but very voluble arguments occurred before the weapons 
were handed over. 

At last all were embarked, and we cast off moorings. Our first- 
class passengers included thirty or forty Americans, chiefly of non- 
Italian origin, who were going on tourist trips by this route direct 
to Spain or Italy. Our Mediterranean service was by no means as 
stylish as those from New York and Boston to Britain, France, and 
Germany. The American Social Register, and the gossip columns 
of the newspapers, seldom or never mentioned the names of pas- 
sengers arriving or departing by the Adriatic migrant-ships; but 
they invariably published the first-dass passenger lists of the big 
liners on the other run. 

After dropping the pilot at Sandy Hook Light Vessel, we went 
off stations and set course on the Great Circle route to Gibraltar, 
a passage of 3,194 miles, which at our average speed of 12i/ 2 knots, 
would take 14 days. 

193 



This track, for most of its distance along or near lat. 40 deg. N., 
is in a warm-weather and usually fine-weather region of the ocean, 
especially in August, In midocean, the track begins to trend south- 
easterly to Gibraltar (in lat. 37 deg. 57 min. N.), and so passes on 
the northern side of the Azores Islands, though out of sight of the 
land there when the vessel is on her true course. 

The food served to the third-class passengers consisted of their 
national dishes, prepared by Austrian-Hungarian or Italian cooks, 
with plenty of goulash for the Hungarians and spaghetti for the 
Italians, and cheap red wine at all meals. The service was rough 
and ready, but they seemed to enjoy it, and always asked for more, 
The foreign dishes were also on the first-class menu and served in 
the officers' and engineers' messrooms, varied occasionally by Brit- 
ish- or American-style cooking. 

There was no pampering of the passengers, as far as meals were 
concerned. Breakfast was served at 7:30, lunch at noon, and table 
d'hdte dinner at 6 P.M. An hour after those times, the tables were 
cleared, and any passenger who had overslept, or was seasick, had 
to be content with a hard biscuit until the next meal came around. 

The dining saloons were fitted with long, narrow tables, each 
accommodating fifteen or twenty people, who sat on hard swivel 
chairs, which were securely bolted to the deck. Around the edges 
of the tables, and down the center, were strips of wood, three or 
four inches high, known as "fiddles." These were to prevent plates 
and dishes from sliding into the laps of diners. Above the tables in 
the first-class were swinging trays, suspended by chains from the 
deckhead. These held glasses, bottles, and cruets. The sight of 
these contraptions, jerkily adjusting themselves to the motion of 
the vessel, did more to upset the equilibrium of the diners than 
the food itself. 

At dinner, each course was announced by the stroke of a gong. 
If a passenger arrived late, he began his meal with the course in 
progress, or, if a course appeared that he felt disinclined to tackle, 
he waited patiently until the next one was served. A light supper 
of savory snacks was handed round at 9:30 P.M. This was the 
most sociable meal of the day, and was usually followed by singing 
and games until "lights out' 1 at 11 P.M. 

194 



Being with Chief Officer "Simmy" Simpson in the four o'clock 
to eight o'clock watch, I was called each morning at 3:45 A.M., and 
went up on the bridge at 4 A.M., in pitch darkness. It is necessary 
for lookout purposes, in the safe navigation of ships, that there 
should be no lights shining on the bridge, or forward of the 
bridge, so that a clear view may be obtained of anything ahead, in- 
cluding the navigation lights of other vessels. With the exception 
of a shrouded light that dimly illumines the compass for the 
helmsman, the bridge at nighttime is in titter darkness. Officers 
and lookout men with long practice develop night-vision, like 
cats; but, in the 4 A.M. to 8 A.M. watch, daylight slowly comes in, 
with its gradually increasing visibility and widening horizons, to 
ease the tension of lookout. 

Underfoot on the bridgedeck were cross-slatted wooden gratings. 
Chief Officer Simpson would say, "Daylight's coming in. I can see 
the holes in the gratings.'* That was a valuable lesson in obser- 
vation. I learned many other things from him which young officers 
learn from seniors, but that remark remains in my memory as an 
example of the right seamanlike attention to detail that can come 
only from practical instruction. 

In the creation of the Universe, the first words spoken were, 
"Let there be Light!" 

In the seafaring profession, perhaps more than in any other, 
light and darkness, and the gradations between them, have vital 
meanings at every moment while the ship is in motion. The more 
light, the greater safety, when navigation depends so much on 
vision; but in the hours of darkness, the ship continues on her 
course; for no darkness beneath the sky can be absolute. Even at 
nighttime, there is visibility on the waters, but vision is restricted, 
and each new day comes in with a sigh of relief that darkness has 
been left astern. The night lingers "in the holes of the gratings," 
reluctant to be dispelled, but day's victory then is near. 

On the fourteenth day out from New York, we steamed into the 
Strait of Gibraltar the "Pillars of Hercules" of the ancient legend 
and dropped anchor a quarter-of-a-inile offshore in the perfect 
haven sheltered by the gigantic natural rock-fortress that is the 

195 



Key of the Mediterranean. Though I had seen the "Rock" from a 
distance three years previously, when I was in the S.S. Shira, this 
was the first time that I had seen the naval base, the shore estab- 
lishments of the navy and the military garrison, and the "Settle- 
ment" along its narrow shore: a sight to thrill a Briton then as 
now, for it was won by valor, and remained, as it does to this day, 
a fortress of freedom. 

We stayed only two hours at "Gib." to disembark into tenders 
some of our passengers, who were going to Spain, and to deliver 
the mails, while bumboats surrounded the ship, doing a brisk 
trade, selling oranges and wine. Then we hove up the anchor, 
steamed out of the Bay, and set course eastwards, rounding Europa 
Point, for Naples a run of 976 miles, which took us three-and-a- 
half days. 

There we berthed at a wharf in the Mercantile Harbor, near 
the Customs House, on the northern side of the famous crescent- 
shaped Bay of Naples, with a smell of sulphur from Mount Vesu- 
vius, emitting its plume of smoke ten miles away, on the eastern 
shore. This was my first visit to Italy. The Bay of Naples looked 
exactly like a colored picture-postcard of itself the sea and sky 
too brightly blue. 

To the soul of the poet Naples is picturesque, but to the mari- 
ner the approach to the Mercantile Harbor, enclosed in an arti- 
ficial breakwater, is merely a technical problem, and he has little 
time to view the scenery until the moorings are made fast. The 
tourist slogan of the times was, "See Naples and diel" Our Chief 
Officer, Simmy Simpson, commented, "What they mean is 'Smell 
Naples and die. . . .' " 

As we neared the wharf, our passengers were in a tremendous 
state of excitement. Nearly all of them were to disembark here. 
It was a return to the beloved native land that they had so often 
dreamed of in their years of exile. Their friends and relatives 
were massed on the wharf, behind barriers, kept back by operatic- 
looking police. 

At last the gangways were down, and the returning venturers 
descended to set foot again on their native soil. At the head of the 
gangway, our ship's police stood on guard, with dozens of ticketed 

196 



revolvers in a box on the deck. As each owner of a revolver pre- 
sented his ticket, he was handed his weapon, pocketed it, and 
made his way down the gangway. 

As soon as he set foot on his native soil or, more precisely on 
the wharf stones the Italian shore police, waiting there, frisked 
him and took his revolver away from him. The unlicensed im- 
portation of firearms into Italy was prohibited. 

Loud were the lamentations. The confiscated Colts went into 
another box on the wharf. 

We lay three days at Naples, and discharged most of our cargo. 
This was the work of the stevedores, but the Deck Officers had to 
stand by, while the work was in progress, from 8 A.M. to 6 P.M., to 
exercise general supervision. In the evenings we strolled ashore, to 
enjoy the sights of Naples. There was a flower festival in progress, 
with dancing and singing in the streets and the little squares, and 
the carnival spirit in full swing. The Neapolitans certainly know 
how to enjoy life. I have never been in Naples when there was 
not a carnival in progress there; but though the sights of the 
city were lively, the smells were also lively, especially in some of 
the narrow streets and lanes, where public sanitation was not as 
well supervised as it is today. 

It was being borne in on me that a sailor's life is a roaming, 
homeless life; for he is never long enough in one place to be at 
home anywhere. His ship is his home, but, even there, he loses his 
friends almost as soon as he makes them among the passengers, 
anyway, who are birds of passage, here today, gone tomorrow. His 
shipmates remain longer, but they, too, are likely to vanish from 
his ken, as he, or they, are transferred to other ships. Everything 
is in movement, the scene forever changing, from shore to sea, 
and from sea to another shore; or from winter and gray skies to 
summer and blue skies in a matter of weeks, or even days, as his 
ship moves on through ever changing degrees of climate and 
weather; and from country to country, where different lingoes, 
different garb, food, features, and scenes forever greet him. 

Yet, with all this resdess movement, he is not discontented. 
There is a purpose in his life all the time; for, when one destina- 

197 



tion is attained and done with, he is bound for another, equally 
definite if only as a pinpoint on a chart, and, if he has not been 
there before, he can look forward to seeing something new: and, if 
it is a place that he already knows, he can look forward to know- 
ing it betterl 

Every port is interesting to arrive at, but even more interesting 
to depart from: for then another port beckons. If he has any home, 
it is at sea. The famous line of Robert Louis Stevenson's would 
make more sense to sailors if it were rewritten, "Home is the 
sailor, home at sea. . . ." 

From Naples we proceeded southwards along the Italian shore, 
for one day's run, to the Strait of Messina, between Sicily and the 
Calabrian "toe" of Italy. I was on watch on the bridge from 4 
A.M. to 8 A.M., when in the darkness before dawn we passed the 
active volcano of Stromboli, in the Lipari Islands. Only ten miles 
away on our starboard beam, it was breathing fire, not actively 
erupting, but the boiling lava inside its cone threw a baleful red 
glow into the sky, which increased and subsided alternately like 
the breath of a gigantic and hellish dragon. 

We steered into the narrow strait of Messina, between Scylla 
and Charybdis, and anchored for a few hours in the harbor of 
Messina, to disembark our few remaining passengers and some 
parcels of cargo. Then we proceeded on our way, with a clear view 
of Mount Etna, mildly erupting, forty miles to the westward. 

Our course now was past Cape Spartivento, and across the 
mouth of the Gulf of Taranto, to round the "heel" of Italy at 
Otranto, and steam norwesterly the entire length of the Adriatic 
Sea to the port of Trieste, at the extreme of that landlocked gulf, 
which is like an inland sea but this is a great track of shipping in 
history, for opposite Trieste is Venice. 

Our passage from Naples to Trieste, 800 miles, occupied three 
days. Now we were in a climate pleasantly cool in that midsum- 
mer season, for the Gulf of Trieste is surrounded by spurs of the 
Julian Alps. The city of Trieste, one of the chief seaports of 
Austria-Hungary, had shipbuilding yards, and was a base of the 
Austrian-Hungarian Navy. It was a bone of contention between 

198 



the Austrians and the Italians, being very near the border between 
the two countries. About half the population of the city and 
province were of Italian descent. 

Here, after discharging the mails and the last of our cargo, we 
coaled and watered ship, loaded some cargo, and got ready to take 
on our passengers. Eight hundred Hungarians men, women, and 
children had been assembled by the emigration authorities, in 
co-operation with the Cunard agent. We were to take on another 
200 at Fiume, and some Greeks at Corfu. 

Before embarkation, the emigrants were assembled in a com- 
pound near the wharf, to be medically examined by the ship's doc- 
tors. I was instructed to go with the doctors and interpreters and 
ship's police, and two or three of our uniformed deckhands, as a 
bodyguard or witness of events, in case of trouble of any kind. 
The intending passengers were formed into queues in the com- 
pound, leading into the doctors' hut, from which if they passed 
they filed out through a gate to the wharf and embarked in the 
ship. 

I saw some pathetic sights there. The U.S.A. immigration au- 
thorities had a short list of diseases which debarred sufferers from 
admission to the States. One of these was trachoma, a disease of 
the eye marked by granular spots on the inner surface of the lids. 

The doctors examined each intending emigrant carefully for 
trachoma, and apparently for nothing else! A pencil-like instru- 
ment was pressed against the upper eyelid, and then the doctor 
would grab the upper eyelash and turn the lid back on the pencil. 
If tell-tale white spots showed trachoma the sufferer was re- 
jected then and there. 

This was a terrible shock to people who had traveled perhaps 
hundreds of miles from the interior of Hungary, after selling all 
their possessions, intending to go to America. Several times I saw 
whole families pass the doctor, except one young child, who had 
trachoma. There were angry protests, and soothing explanations 
by police and emigration authorities, after which, with outbursts 
of grief, the whole family would tearfully give up the idea of mak- 
ing the voyage. 

In hard cases such as this, there was sometimes an attempt at 

199 



bribery and corruption, and large cash sums would be offered to 
the doctor to let the sufferer go on board. But, apart from his moral 
scruples, the doctor had to be hard, as immigrants were all ex- 
amined again for trachoma at Ellis Island in New York, and any 
found suffering from that complaint had to be repatriated at the 
steamship company's expense. 

There was a rare and expensive drug which, if applied properly 
for two or three days, had the effect of making a partial or tempo- 
rary cure. Peddlars of this drug did a thriving trade at all Medi- 
terranean ports from which emigrants were shipped to America. 
But it was sold illicitly, and many a distracted husband or father 
parted with hard earned cash for a phial of colored water. 

After Trieste, we stopped for mail, cargo, and passengers, at 
Fiume, Corfu, Messina, Palermo, and Almeria in southern Spain 
before returning to Gibraltar and sailing again through the pillars 
of Hercules to the Western Ocean. It was then, as we breasted the 
ocean swell, that the fun really began, as the majority of our pas- 
sengers saw the mighty ocean for the first time in their lives, and 
what they saw displeased them. Most of them became seasick, prob- 
ably through excitement and a fear of the uncontrollable un- 
known, and the entirely unaccustomed experience. But they were 
brave, hardy, and sturdy people, and soon adjusted themselves. 

When we were halfway across, one of our passengers, a Hun- 
garian who had been studying English for some months previously, 
had a big idea. He discovered a cure for seasickness! The more 
he thought about it, the more sure he was that his idea was sound, 
and that it would solve the problem that had baffled mighty 
minds for centuries. 

He explained the idea, in his self-taught English, to our Purser 
(Quayle), who advised him to put it in writing, in the form of a 
letter to the Captain. This the inventor proceeded to do: 

Dear Sir Captainl 

I have the problems of the sea been pondering. A 
remedy against sickness of the sea. Many things are recom- 
mend. Namely, eat nothing, drink nothing, eat lemons, lie 

200 



down, gaze to the clouds, fill the mind with noble thoughts. 
All this is no use. 

In a word, seasickness is loss o equilibrium. The problem 
is simple. To re-establish equilibrium! 

The solution is namely simple. The passenger and the 
steamer form a block, a system. That is why he suffer. The 
solution is to separate the passenger from the ship. 

How to do this? Easy. On the steamer must be established 
a large pond or basin full with water, and in it a floating 
cabin. Here can the sick person go. It is obvious that the sur- 
face water of the pond will be a calmness, and the cabin wiU 
float in a quiet lake. I leave all details regarding size and 
dimensions to you. 

Your obedient servant, 
H. LAKOSH 

(Former schoolteacher) 

There was no swimming pool in the Ultonia, or the ingenious 
inventor would have seen how water sloshes about in his "quiet 
lake" with even the slightest movement of the ship. But one part 
of his letter was correct. The cure for seasickness is to separate the 
passenger from the ship. This happens when he goes ashore. 

Arrived at New York, we anchored in quarantine near the Nar- 
rows, within sight of the Statue of Liberty, and our passengers 
were all carefully examined again for trachoma. 

After several hours of anxiety, all passed, except two. We pro- 
ceeded to the pier, and all except these two were Americans-to-be. 
The unfortunates were taken in a government launch to Ellis Is- 
land, to await repatriation to the land of their birth. For a week, 
until our next sailing-day, they could gaze at the Manhattan sky- 
line, so near and yet so far, between their granulated eyelids. 



201 



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN 



In Hospital for Refit Kindness of Commodore 
Watt I Join the RMS. "Umbria" "The At- 
lantic Submarines 9 ' How and When Sailors 
Sleep Captain James Charles Chief Officer 
Luke Ward '"Umbria' the Unready" Her 
Open Bridge A Burial at Sea A Moving Ex- 
perience Captain Will Turner Chief Officer 
Jock Anderson The Steep Ladder of Promo- 
tion. 



AFTER I had made four Mediterranean voyages in the Ultonia, 
she was taken temporarily off that run and went to Liverpool for 
refit. I left her there on January 27, 1908, with sick leaveoff pay 
as I also needed a refit. 

Four-and-a-half years previously, when serving as Second Mate 
in the full-rigged ship County of Cardigan, I had injured myself 
at the port of Eten, in Peru, by jumping down into the hold on 
top of a heap of loose coal, which was our cargo. I had strained 
my innards and developed hernia, but, hoping that time would 
mend it, I carried on. The doctors in the Caronia and the Ultonia 
advised me to have an operation. 

It was no use cracking hardy and pretending any longer to be 
a tough old salt. Doctor Mclntyre (who later became Board of 

202 



Trade Medical Officer at Southampton) insisted that I should 
have the operation, and the sooner the better, as otherwise my 
chances of advancement in the Cunard service might be affected 
by the physical disability. It was on his report to the Marine 
Superintendent that I was granted sick leave. 

I entered the Stanley Hospital at Liverpool, with the usual 
suspicions of a person who doesn't like being cut up, and with the 
usual forebodings, as I had never been in a hospital as a patient. 
But all went well. 

While I was in hospital, the Commodore of the Cunard Line, 
Captain Watt, and his wife, visited me, and invited me to stay with 
them for a week during my convalescence, at their home at Oxton, 
in Cheshire. This was a nice gesture from Captain Watt, as I was 
the most junior officer in the service. It taught me a lesson in 
esprit de corps. I felt then that I really "belonged." 

Two years previously I had been shipmates with Captain Watt's 
son, Jim, in the S.S. Jura. Jim's sisters were lively girls, who helped 
to make my convalescence at Oxton more enjoyable. The matron 
of the hospital and Mrs. Watt were sisters. 

Five weeks later, I was fit for work again. I was appointed as 
Junior Third Officer in R.M.S. Umbria. I joined this famous old 
ship at Liverpool on March 27, 1908. Her Master was Captain 
James C. W. Charles (who in later years rose to eminence in the 
Cunard service, and was knighted). He was a big and powerfully 
built man, trained in sail, who really loved the sea. He looked 
like a typical Englishman (if there is such a person), but, when 
chatting amiably to me, he took an early opportunity of putting 
over one of his favorite jokes. "Do you know, Bisset, I'm neither 
English, Welsh, Scottish, nor Irish! Then what do you think I am?" 

"A Manxman," I guessed. 

"Wrong, I'm a Cornishman!" 

There is a real point of pride in this, as anyone who knows 
Cornish people is aware. They consider, with good historical rea- 
son, that they are a race apart. In fact, there is a Cornish language, 
which has affinities with the Breton and Basque languages, "There 

203 



were kings and castles in Cornwall," said Captain Charles, "when 
the English were only savages." 

The S.S. Umbria, 8,128 tons, and her sister ship the Etruria, 
launched at Elders' shipyards, Glasgow, in 1884 and 1885, were 
the oldest Cunarders still in service in 1908, but were now nearly 
at the end of their glorious careers. (The Umbria was scrapped in 
1910 and the Etruria in 1909.) Both had held the Blue Riband. 
They had speeds of 18 or 19 knots, and were on the midweek 
Atlantic Mail Service between Liverpool and New York, alter- 
nating with the Caronia and Carmania. 

I felt that it was a link with history to serve in the old Umbria, 
for she and her sister were the last of the Cunarders designed to 
carry auxiliary sail. She was a single-screw steel-hulled steamer, 
with two stumpy raking funnels, and three tall steel masts, on 
which yards for square sails had originally been crossed. Her 
square sails had been discarded early in her career, but .she had 
carried fore-and-aft auxiliary sails for many years. These were no 
longer in use when I joined her. An indication of her sailing design 
was in her raised fo'c'sle deck and poopdeck; but, instead of a rak- 
ing or clipper bow, she had a straight (or "plumb" or "vertical") 
stem, which piled up a tremendous bow-wave when she was going 
at full speed. 

When hard driven, as she usually was, she often shipped purlers 
over the bow. For this reason the Umbria and the Etruria were 
jokingly called "the Atlantic Submarines." The saying was that 
they went down at Fastnet and came up at Sandy Hook. In 
twenty-four years the Umbria had steamed one and a half million 
miles on the Atlantic mail service, with an interlude as a troop 
transport during the South African war of 1899-1901. 

She had been worn out through being driven too hard, by Cap- 
tains imbued with the idea of "cracking on" and "making a pas- 
sage" and "keeping her going" a legacy of sailing ship traditions. 
It was considered almost a disgrace to reduce speed, or to arrive 
an hour or two late, even after a heavy-weather crossing. (Now- 
adays, shipmasters reduce speed, in heavy, head-on weather, to 
avoid damage to the ship.) 

After so many years of hard treatment, the Umbria was showing 

204 



the signs of wear and tear. Her decks were sprung and leaky, and 
much of her dedkgear was not only old-fashioned, but worn. Her 
midship structure was not raised high, as in liners of later design. 
Her promenade deck was below the level of the fo'c'sledeck and 
poop. It resembled the "waist" of a sailing-ship, and she could 
take seas over the rail onto this deck in heavy weather. Her boat- 
deck was almost flush with the fo'c'sle deck and poop, and could 
also take seas and spray from forward when she was "thrusting 
into it." In heavy weather, her passengers were sometimes confined 
below decks. Occasionally, seas were shipped down below to flood 
into the alleyways, over the deck sills of the companionways. (But 
not into the sleeping cabins, dining saloons, or lounges and smoke- 
rooms, which had sills in their doorways to the alleyways.) 

The Umbria carried 1,500 souls, of whom 1,200 were passengers. 
There were three classes first, second, and third. The officers also 
lived in three classes. The Chief and First Officers had a cabin 
each on the upper deck. The Junior First Officer and the Second 
Officer lived on the second-class deck; and the Senior and Junior 
Third Officers shared a cabin on the third-class deck. 

As Junior Third Officer I now had a rise of one pound a month 
in pay, and a stripe-and-a-half on my sleeve, but the accommoda- 
tion down below made this another Irishman's Rise for me, for 
the time being. My roommate was Senior Third Officer Mott, a 
gigantic man who had the right to occupy the only bunk in the 
cabin, while I had to sleep in the settee. As we were in different 
watches, this sharing was not in itself a hardship, but the cabin 
was small and poorly ventilated, with a door and porthole opening 
onto the af terwelldeck. All day long, and for half the night, the 
third-class passengers (mostly emigrants from Ireland or con- 
tinental European countries) were chattering, shouting, singing, 
and playing games near our cabin, and we could get little deep. 
In port, with two steam cargo winches running day and night, 
outside our door, we also got little sleep. 

I doubt if there is any calling in the world in which men work 
such "broken time," and have so little regular sleep, as men in 
the seafaring profession. This was certainly true under sail, when 
the entire crew kept "watch and watch'* four hours on and four 

205 



hours off every day and night for months on end, and learned 
to sleep like cats, with one ear cocked for any alert of danger, and 
in bad weather had to work aloft through what should have been 
their watches below. That was at the all-too-frequent cry of "all 
hands on deck/' especially in undermanned sailing vessels. 

In steamers, the three-watch system of four hours on and eight 
off, with no sails to manhandle, is more humane, but this system 
has its snags, too. There can be no Sabbath Day of rest for the crew 
in a ship at sea. Every day is a working day, in a seven-day week. 
Even with three watches, officers work a 56-hour week, that is an 
eight hour day, in two four-hour periods of duty daily in "broken 
time," which cannot be avoided. 

I am not complaining, as a man goes to sea with his eyes open, 
knowing that it will be a hard life. The advantages of seafaring 
far outweigh the disadvantages, and "what can't be cured must 
be endured." The seamen and boys in steamers, under the two- 
watch system, worked twelve hours a day that is, an 84-hour 
week, without any question of overtime payment. They never had 
more than three-and-a-half hours sleep at a stretch. On the other 
hand, their work in steamers at sea was much less arduous than 
that of seamen and boys under sail. The men with most responsi- 
bility the two helmsmen in each watch relieved one another in 
two-hourly spells, this being the longest period that any tiaan 
could be expected to concentrate on watching a jiggling compass 
needle; but the others, chiefly on lookout, were not under great 
physical or mental strain. 

An officer on watch has to be mentally concentrated for four 
hours, and this can be more tiring than mere physical work. He 
dares not relax, even for a minute, especially at nighttime, as 
that minute could mean all the difference to the safety of the ship, 
in avoiding collision or any other hazard. 

The first watch 8 to 12, morning and evening was not so 
bad, as it enabled the officer to go to bed soon after midnight and 
get his natural sleep until 7:30 A,M., plus a couple of hours in 
the afternoon for good measure! But the middle watch 12 to 4, 
commonly known as the "graveyard watch" kept the officer out 
of his bunk at the hours when slumber is sweetest. I was with the 

206 




May, feeding a horse, 1911. 




H.M.5. Victory, Nelson's flagship. 



Imperial War Museum photo 



Chief Officer (Luke Ward) in the 4 to 8 watch, which meant get- 
ting up every morning at 3:45, just when the bed is pulling its 
hardest. It is during these hours of watch-keeping that the average 
officer vows that if he ever gets to be Captain "he'll sleep his head 
off/' 

But this is only wishful thinking. The Captain may spend hours 
reclining on his settee, but he never sleeps deeply, as he is on duty 
twenty-four hours a day, and the orders are that he is to be called 
if anything unusual occurs. He dozes fitfully, but part of his mind 
is alert all the time. He hears the bells sounded at every half hour, 
and he is aware of the changes of the watch, and of changes of 
weather, and of any unusual sound or movement in the ship. Near- 
ing port, or in fog, or the proximity of icebergs, or in heavy 
weather, he may get no sleep except catnaps for two or three days 
at a stretch. 

Captain Charles was rare in my experience, as a shipmaster who 
slept heavily, during the nightwatches, after his vessel had cleared 
port. But he left orders that he was to be informed of the bearing 
of any lights sighted, or of any change of course, or indication of 
change of weather, or anything else unusual. It was my task to 
go to his cabin, on the instructions of the Chief Officer, to wake 
him, and this was no easy task. I would knock on his door, enter, 
put on the light, and call his name until he grunted something 
unintelligible, without opening his eyes. I would then make my 
report, and he would grunt again, still apparently deep in slumber. 
This was disconcerting, as it was my duty to make sure that my 
words had fully penetrated his consciousness. I hesitated to put 
a hand on him and shake him "awake, so I would stand there, re- 
peating the report several times, until he would open his eyes, 
and say grumpily, "I heard you the first time!" 

If the occasion warranted his getting up, he was grumpy in the 
extreme. Usually the reports that awakened him were merely rou- 
tine. "All right," he would say, irritably. "Carry on!" Then he 
would add, "And put out my light, pleasel" or some similar term 
of anything but endearment, which filled me with forebodings 
of dire consequences quite needlessly, for his grumpiness sub- 

207 



sided into deep slumber again, as soon as I put out the light and 
softly closed the door. 

Chief Officer Luke Ward (who, as Captain Ward, later became 
Marine Superintendent of the Cunard Line) was a fine seaman 
and a strict disciplinarian. His manner was more like that of a 
schoolmaster than a sailor. He kept me and everyone else on board 
bang up to the mark. He was a rigid economist in his supervision 
of ships' stores and gear. He was fond of using the words, "rigid 
economy/' and Jim Watt once remarked to me, "The perfect 
example of rigid economy would be Luke Ward in a six-foot case!" 

I may explain that the word "coffin" is never used by sailors. 
It is always "a six-foot case," 

It worried Chief Officer Ward that the Umbria's gear was so 
antiquated, and hard to keep in working order. Soon after we had 
left Queenstown, an Irish passenger made a complaint to the 
Purser, who asked him to put it in writing. This the passenger did, 
as follows: "Sir, the hot water in the taps is cold, and furthermore 
there is none of it." 

A state of disrepair prevailed throughout the Umbria during the 
six voyages to New York that I made in her. It was scarcely worth 
repairing her, as her days were numbered. The Chief Officer was 
only too well aware of her defects, which his best efforts could not 
overcome. On one occasion, when she arrived in New York, the 
immigration officials, coming out to board her at the Narrows, 
were kept waiting for several minutes because her accommoda- 
tion ladder had become jammed, and could not be lowered. One 
of the officials sang out, "Come on, Umbria the Unready. . , ." 

That really hurt the Chief Officer's pride. 

The bridge in the Umbria was one of her most remarkable fea- 
tures, in comparison with the bridges of other liners on the At- 
lantic Mail Run. It was the old-fashioned type of "open bridge" 
that is, nothing more than a narrow platform athwartships, at the 
forward end of the boatdeck, entirely open to the sky, and with- 
out any enclosed or roofed wheelhouse in the center. It had one 
brass handrail, waist-high, but no other protection. The idea was 
perhaps that officers and men on watch should not be pampered 

208 



and made too comfortable, or they might fall asleep. Also, in the 
days when the Umbria carried sail, the open bridge had enabled 
the officer of the watch to keep an eye aloft on the set of the can- 
vas at every minute, and to direct the handling of sail. 

But when sail was discarded, the open bridge remained unal- 
tered. After some years, it proved too rugged for steamboat sailors 
of the softer tradition, and canvas screens, known as "dodgers," 
were provided. These were secured with lashings to the handrail 
and rail stanchions, and had the effect of a waist-high weather- 
cloth, which gave some protection to the lower limbs of the men 
on the bridge, but none to the upper parts of the body. 

In bad weather, when she was "punching into it," and throwing 
seas and spray over the bridge, the weight of water sometimes 
bent the bridgerails and stanchions fiat Thereafter, in heavy 
weather, the dodgers round the wings of the bridge were furled, 
and only the small central part, where the wheel and compass 
stood, had this partial protection. 

It happened that on my first westbound passage in her, the 
Umbria ran into a series of westerly gales, and lived up to her 
reputation as a "submarine." The Captain would not reduce 
speed. One blusterous night when I was standing with the Chie 
Officer and the helmsman at the wheel, she took a purler over the 
bow, which swept away the dodger protecting the wheel, knocked 
the three of us flat, and half drowned us. 

Even then, Captain Charles would not give the order to reduce 
speed. He merely said, "Keep her going." He had unlimited faith 
in what the old lady could do, but, despite her best efforts, as the 
gales persisted, we took nine days for the crossing, and arrived 
two days late. This was serious on a mail run. Our wireless equip- 
ment had been installed six years previously, but was only of an 
experimental type, and, like everything else in the Umbria, was 
antiquated. Its effective range was only fifty miles. When we be- 
came overdue, its signals were not reaching the American shore 
stations. In view of the heavy weather prevailing, an alarming 
rumor was spread in New York that the famous old champion 
liner had foundered in mid-Atlantic and was lost with all hands. 

We spoiled this story by arriving safe and sound, with an excuse 

209 



as antiquated as the ship "better late than never." But it was so 
exceptional for a Cunarder to be late that the New York news- 
men were clamoring for the details of our supposedly dramatic 
mishaps. 

Captain Charles, being a true seaman of the old school, had 
been on the bridge for long hours, by day and by night, during the 
gales, and for several days had missed his usual deep and healthy 
sleeps. As soon as the liner was docked, the Captain retired to his 
cabin for a sleep. Then reporters swarmed on board, eager for 
"the story." The Chief Officer and other officers refused to be in- 
terviewed, or correctly ascribed the delay to the westerly gales. No 
lives had been lost, no one was injured, and no serious damage 
had been done to the ship; but some of the passengers, having 
been kept below decks with no impressions except of terrific pitch- 
ing and rolling, hinted that something unprecedented must have 
occurred. 

A bunch of the reporters, having found the Captain's cabin, 
gathered at his door, knocking and shouting for news. After 
awhile, the burly and very irate Charles emerged and drove them 
away with fierce and harsh words that he had learned as a Mate 
in Cape Homers. Such words were quite unprintable in those 
days. The least offensive of his remarks was, "Get to hell out of 
this, you 1" (Still unprintable, fifty years later.) 

As a result, they got even with him by publishing a sob story that 
was utterly at variance with the Captain's rugged character. Un- 
der big headlines, they reported: "Captain Charles was so un- 
nerved by his terrible passage that he was unable to speak to us." 

There was nothing wrong with the Umbria except the incre- 
ment of the years. She and the Etruria were the most powerful 
single-screw passenger liners ever built. It was rare enough for a 
vessel of 8,000 tons to have only a single screw, but for a vessel of 
that size to be able to maintain a speed of eighteen knots for six- 
teen consecutive days (as the Umbria did on one passage with 
troops to South Africa) with only a single screw, was then, and 
would still be phenomenal. She was designed as an auxiliary 
cruiser, and, as half her crew belonged to the Royal Naval Reserve, 

210 



she proudly flew the Blue Ensign on the staff of her stern, instead 
of the Red Ensign of the mercantile marine. Her passenger ac- 
commodation, though so old-fashioned, was remarkably solid, with 
beautiful bird's eye maple, teakwood and other paneling. She car- 
ried the first refrigerating machinery ever installed in a trans- 
atlantic liner (successor to the oldtime "ice-rooms"), and, per- 
haps most remarkable, she had a pipe organ in her music-room. 
In short, with all her faults, we loved her still. 

On one of my westbound passages in the Umbria, I saw, for 
the first time, a burial at sea. A party of twelve Irish Roman 
Catholic priests had embarked at Queenstown for New York. One 
of them was taken ill, and, after we had passed Fastnet, he died, 
late in the afternoon, in the ship's hospital. This was not made 
known to the passengers generally, but the news soon spread 
among the crew. 

After consultations with the other priests in the party, the Cap- 
tain made arrangements for the body to be buried at sea at 4 
A.M. next day a time when few, if any, passengers would be on 
deck. 

When I came off watch at 8 P.M., the Chief Officer instructed me 
to get the bosun and lamptrimmer along to the hospital, and told 
me to supervise the preparation of the body for burial. That 
meant, in nautical usage, to see that the body was weighted with 
two heavy iron furnace bars and neatly sewn up in canvas. 

It is usually the Captain's duty to read the burial service at sea, 
but the priests had asked permission to conduct their own service 
for their colleague, and this was at once willingly agreed to by the 
Captain. 

As dawn came in, at the 4 A.M. change of the watch, the engines 
were rung to stop, the propeller ceased to turn, and the Umbria 
came slowly to rest The sea was calm, and daylight was just break- 
ing as the body was carried to the poopdeck, and placed on a 
plank beneath the tafirail, under the Blue Ensign. 

The eleven priests had all donned their vestments, and the Cap- 
tain and officers attended also, as a mark of respect, wearing full 
dress uniform with frock coats. Most of the crew, including the 

211 



firemen and trimmers many o whom were Catholics also as- 
sembled aft for a ceremony that, in the dawn hush, with the 
engines still, was intensely impressive. 

The voices of the priests chanting their Latin prayers and re- 
sponses in those surroundings of the wide waters, beneath the 
dawn-tinged sky, rose as a cry from the grieving heart of man to 
the Great God above. It was a moment of sincerity and piety, pro- 
foundly moving. 

Then came the words, spoken in English, "We now commit the 
body of our dear departed to the deep." Two uniformed quarter- 
masters lifted the plank at one end, and the body slid over the 
side under the taffrail. The priests made the Sign of the Cross, 
the officers and uniformed men saluted, and a subdued moan of 
emotion rose from the crew. 

The body sank quickly. The Captain, from long sea-habit, 
glanced appraisingly at the sky, and said crisply to the Chief Of- 
ficer, "Carry on, Mister. Proceed on your course." 

Soon the propeller set up its turmoil again, and we were off 
at full speed, and everything back to normal, with only the mem- 
ory of a rare experience remaining. 

Though many have been buried at sea, this burial, in regard to 
the number of dergy participating, was probably unprecedented. 
(Nowadays, when a death occurs in a large passenger liner at sea, 
a report is sent by radio to the owners of the liner, who ascertain 
from the relatives if they desire the body to be buried at sea, or 
brought to port. If the latter, the ship's surgeon and hospital at- 
tendants embalm the body, and it is sealed in a leaden casket and 
enclosed in a "six-foot case" for transportation.) 

After I had made three voyages in the Umbria with Captain 
Charles, he and Chief Officer Ward were transferred at Liverpool 
(in June, 1908) to other ships. This was a common practice in the 
Cunard service, sometimes for administrative convenience, to re- 
place masters or officers going on leave or retiring, and sometimes 
by way of promoting a Captain or officer to a bigger or better ves- 
sel. The effect was that most Cunard officers saw service in many 
different liners, and at one time or another in their careers, be- 

212 



came personally acquainted as shipmates with most o the other 
men in the service. 

The new Captain of the Umbria, William Turner, fifty-three 
years of age, was a rugged "old salt" if ever there was one, for he 
had gone to sea as a boy of thirteen, and had served fourteen 
years in sail, rising to command of a fullrigger, before he had 
joined the Cunard service in 1883. Then, after twenty years as 
an officer in Cunarders, he had been appointed Captain in the 
Company's service in 1903, and had held command of the Car- 
pathia and the Ivernia before being transferred to the Umbria. 
He was a shortish, slim-built man, but with the broad shoulders 
and powerful arms that years of pully-hauly give to sailing ship 
men. He was taciturn and austere, inclined to be shy of sociable 
contacts with passengers, but a very keen navigator and strict in 
his attention to detail. He usually had lunch in his cabin. I call 
him austere, because on several occasions when I had to make 
reports to him there at lunchtime, though he had the choice of 
the first-class menu, I noticed that his lunch consisted of a bowl 
of boiled rice, and nothing elsel 

Our new Chief Officer, J. C. ("Jock") Anderson, was also a man 
of sturdy character and fine knowledge of seamanship, learned the 
hard way. I made three voyages to New York in the Umbria with 
Captain Turner and Chief Officer Anderson. 

Seven years later, Will Turner was Captain, and Jock Anderson 
Staff Captain, of the Lusitania on her fatal last voyage, in May, 
1915. It was my fortune to have been associated with these two fine 
seamen as a junior officer, and to learn from them some of the many 
things that a young officer needs to learn when his feet are on 
the bottom rungs of that long ladder of the years of experience 
and increasing responsibility that is known as Promotion. 

After eight months' service in the Urnbria, I left her in Liver- 
pool in October, 1908, when I was transferred to a much bigger, 
more comfortable, more modern, but also slower ship, the Ivernia, 
on the run from Liverpool to Boston. 

I cannot truthfully say that I was sorry to leave the Umbria^ but 
she was a great ship in her day. She was built in the year that I 

213 



was born. She and I were both twenty-five years of age, but she 
was already antiquated, worn out in service, and at the end of 
her career, ready to be scrapped, whereas I was looking forward 
to the era of modern progress in which the Umbria would be 
merely a memory of a bygone generation's strivings to excel. 



214 



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN 




Liverpool to Boston Two Winter Voyages in 
the "Ivernia" The "Steady Sisters" Captain 
Benison's Worries Navigating in Fog A North 
Atlantic Storm Mountainous Seas Lifeboats 
Stove in We Arrive Two Days Late Studied 
Understatement Boston Hospitality The Nan- 
tucket Sea-tradition A Foggy Christmas Greet- 
ing. 



WHEN I joined the S.SL Ivernia, at Liverpool, in November, 1908, 
as extra Third Officer, it was a rise. She, and her sister, Saxonia, 
were two of the biggest and most comfortable vessels in the Cunard 
fleet. Launched on the Tyne in 1900, the Ivernia was a typical 
Ocean Grayhound, a twin-screw steamer 600 feet long, 60 feet 
beam, of 14,057 tons gross; but she had a speed of only 15 knots. 

When they were launched, the Ivernia and Saxonia rated for a 
few months as the biggest ships in the world, until the White 
Star Oceanic (17,000 tons) took that honor from them. 

The "pretty sisters" Caronia and Carmania (20,000 tons), and 
the "magnificent sisters" Lusitania and Mauretania (32,000 tons) 
had put the two old "steady sisters" in the shade, and they had 
been relegated to the Liverpool to Boston run. Their speed was 
not enough for the New York mail run, as they required eight 

215 



days for the crossing; but as a consolation they were famous as 
the "steadiest" ships on the North Atlantic. It was claimed that 
they were designed for comfort rather than speed. This quality 
made them favorites with passengers, especially in the winter 
months, when gales must be expected. 

The Ivernia (like the Saxonia) had a single funnel, extended to 
a height of 106 feet above the water level. This unusual height 
was intended to give an extra forced draft to the coal-burning fur- 
naces, but the theory of one very tall funnel had been discarded 
by designers of the bigger Cunarders, in favor of two, and even 
four, shorter funnels. 

Funnels were of greater importance in coal-burning steamers 
than in the later developed oil-burning steamers. One advantage of 
a tall funnel was that it carried the smoke and soot away from the 
boatdecks sometimes. To compare the silhouettes of steamers 
as these have developed in a hundred years of steam navigation 
is a fascinating study. The distant view of a steamer in broadside 
is the first method of recognizing her, by the design of her hull 
form, masts, funnels, and kingposts and the profile of her super- 
structure. It is amazing how many variations have been introduced, 
and are still being introduced by designers. There are funnels of 
many different shapes and rakes, some nowadays placed aft on the 
poop. 

In 1908, the engine-room, and consequently the funnel or fun- 
nels, were amidships, immediately abaft the bridge. The steamer 
with a single funnel placed centrally in the midships superstruc- 
ture appeared to be gracefully balanced. But in the Ivernia and 
the Saxonia the very tall single funnel detracted from the grace- 
ful appearance of the vessel in silhouette. The funnel was strongly 
stayed with steel cables, but looked precarious. The modern prin- 
ciples of "streamlining" were scarcely understood, or had not been 
scientifically studied. So these vessels, although in their hull-form 
they were sleek Ocean Grayhounds, had what looked like a fac- 
tory chimney towering amidships, destroying the symmetry of 
the design. 

The freakishly tall funnel was an obstruction to airflow which 
to some extent slowed the vessel's service speed. The Ivernia had 

216 



also four tall steel masts, 160 feet high. These masts were vertical, 
like the funnel (not raked). Two extra masts had been included 
by the designers in an attempt to balance the freakish appearance 
of the tall funnel. Stumpmasts and kingposts in the modern style 
would have been more effective in use. The Ivernia's design was 
typical of shipbuilding ideas in 1900, which had already become 
out of date in 1908. 1 commend to anyone who has a "harbor view" 
in a busy port to take note of the variety in the broadside view of 
merchant ships, old and new. Experimentation is forever in prog- 
ress. 

The Ivernia had the tallest funnel ever fitted to a steamship, in 
her day or since. I cannot suppose that this had anything to do 
with her renowned steadiness at sea; yet that too was a fact. She 
was one of the steadiest vessels I have ever served in. 

She carried 2,000 passengers, in three classes. A novel feature 
was the "Thermotank" ventilation system, which enabled pas- 
sengers to control ventilation in their cabins a forerunner of air- 
conditioning. In every other way the passenger accommodation 
was comfortable rather than luxurious. This suited the Bostonians 
and other New Englanders who comprised most of our first- and 
second-class passengers: people of solid common sense and no 
swank. The third-class accommodation was occupied mainly by 
emigrants, on the westward run. 

Not so comfortable were the officers' quarters, a group of cabins 
in the 'tweendecks around Number Three hatch. At sea they were 
good enough for their purpose, though isolated and poorly venti- 
lated; but, when we were in port, it was almost impossible for 
the officers to get any sleep. The slings of cargo, up and down, and 
winches were rattling, day and night. 

With a crew of 500, food for the "ship's people" was a big item 
in the company's working expenses. Food for the officers was good 
in the Cunard line. I had no complaints to make on that score, 
after serving in sail and in tramps! I considered that I was in clover. 
But there were complaints, especially from the firemen and trim- 
mers, that they were underfed. Their work was heavy, and it gave 
them big appetites. They lost so much weight by sweating that 

217 



most of them had a perpetually lean and hungry look. In the long 
history of seafaring, no men have ever had such hard and brutaliz- 
ing work as the firemen and trimmers in the big coal-burning 
steamers in the early years of the twentieth century. 

As a Deck Officer I had practically no contacts with the firemen 
and trimmers, but many a time I felt pity for them as I saw them 
coming off watch and trudging wearily to their quarters, utterly 
done in, sweat squelching in their boots. Their faces, blackened 
with coal dust, and streaked with sweat, had a dulled, animal- 
like look, and they seldom smiled. It was killing work. 

In the smaller cargo steamers of some British companies, the 
food provided for the crew was of poor quality almost as bad as 
in "hungry ships" under sail. One of the smaller firms in Liver- 
pool, Moss and Company, had the reputation, in common with 
other companies, of providing inadequate rations. One evening 
at the Seaman's Mission in Liverpool, I attended a lecture on First 
Aid that was being given by a local doctor. A good crowd was 
present, and the doctor began his lecture dramatically by uncover- 
ing a life-size model of a human skeleton. "Now, men," he said, 
"you all know what this is." 

A voice from the back commented, "Yes, sir. It's one of Moss' 
trimmers! 

Captain Benison of the Ivernia was a grumpy and laconic ship- 
master, with the reputation of being a hard driver. He had a fiery 
red face, from which he was given the nickname the "Glowworm." 
He was not tactful, even with passengers. On one occasion, when 
the Ivernia was going dead slow in heavy fog, off the Newfound- 
land Banks, and many hours behind schedule, a Bostonian lady 
said to him, "Say, Captain, is it always foggy round here?" 

The exasperated Glowworm glared at her, and growled, "How 
should I know, madam? I don't live here!" 

Despite his gruffness, Captain Benison was a fine seaman, and 
a strict disciplinarian. Having joined the Ivernia in mid-Novem- 
ber, I soon had an opportunity of seeing what made Captain Beni- 
son so short-tempered. The route to Boston in the winter months 
is occasionally beset by westerly Atlantic gales in midocean, and 

218 



by fog near the Newfoundland Banks and off the shores of Brit- 
ain. He was under great strain, partly because he spent long 
sleepless hours on the bridge, in heavy weather or fog, as though 
he feared that the officers of the watch might lose his ship for him. 
This was zeal in the extreme. A Captain must sleep sometimes, 
but the "Glowworm" could never relax. That was his tempera- 
ment, but he frayed his own nerves by overstrain, sometimes un- 
necessarily. 

I was on watch with the Chief Officer, Sam Jones. We began our 
voyage with fog in the Irish Sea, proceeding at dead slow, with 
our steam whistle hooting mournfully at one-minute intervals. 
It was an ordeal to be on the bridge of a steamer in thick fog, in 
narrow waters, on a waterway busy with traffic, in the days before 
radar and direction-finding instruments were invented. The fog's 
fantastic curtain reduces visibility almost to nil. The ship can 
only grope forward, everyone on watch straining his eyes and his 
ears in readiness for instantaneous action to avert collision. 

Other ships, though invisible, are heard hooting like lost souls, 
but it is difficult to judge their distance or course. The fog muffles 
and distorts sound. The fact that there is thick fog often implies 
that there is little or no wind. This means that sailing vessels are 
becalmed and have no steering way. Their foghours are hand- 
worked and emit only a feeble squeaky note. 

A steamer must keep headway on, with steering-way, to avoid 
drifting. Very accurate navigation is essential, by dead-reckoning, 
and soundings, since there is no sight of sun or stars, or of land- 
marks. In extreme cases she will anchor, but this is accepting de- 
feat. A fog could last for days. It is better to try to grope a way 
out of it. A vessel at anchor could be rammed by another under 
way; but while she is in motion, with steering way, evasive action 
of some kind is possible. 

So she crawls on, waiting for the fog to lift, and hoping for the 
best. The officers of the watch are posted on the wings of die navi- 
gating bridge. It is a strict sea rule "No keeping a lookout be- 
hind glass" meaning the plate glass windows of the wheelhouse. 
Yet in the wheelhouse stands the helmsman with his eyes on the 
lubber-line of the compass, keeping the ship on her course, and 

219 



ready at any instant to obey an order to "port the helm" or "star- 
board the helm" to avoid a collision. Extra lookouts are posted 
on the bow, since visibility is better in fog at a lower level than 
in the crow's nest or on the bridge. The concentration is intense. 
(But what a miraculous invention was radar!) 

The watches were relieved, as usual, every four hours, and the 
officers could go below for eight hours rest and relaxation, free of 
responsibility; but Captain Benison was on the bridge, or awake 
in his chartroom, in every watch, tireless. We compared notes 
afterwards and reckoned that he had gone without sleep for fifty 
hours, until at last we ran out of the fog and were able to take 
bearings from Fastnet Lighthouse, and he could set course on the 
Great Circle route southwesterly in open ocean, with rapidly im- 
proving visibility. 

Then he retired to his cabin for a sleep, with the usual, "Call 
me if you sight anything unusual, Mister!" 

Who'd be a Captain? I thought. No wonder he's cranky some- 
times. . . . What a life! 

On the second day after we had left Fastnet astern, I was on 
the bridge in the 4 A.M. to 8 A.M. watch, when the Chief Officer 
beckoned to me to join him on the starboard wing. "We're run- 
ning into dirty weather," he remarked. 

I looked into the blackness ahead and overhead, and saw that 
his prediction was correct. The ship had been forging ahead at her 
steady fifteen knots, in normal weather, but now a fresh south- 
westerly breeze had sprung up and raised a bit of a lop which had 
started her pitching a little, though she was riding it easily. 

"The breeze is freshening," I commented. 

"Too much," he grumbled. At that moment the crest of a sea 
slapped against the bows, and sent a shower of spray scudding 
across the forecastlehead. It was 6 A.M. There was a hint of dawn 
in the sky. "Go and tell the Captain that we're running into 
heavy weather from ahead." 

As I turned to obey this order, the Captain, wearing his great- 
coat, stepped out on to the bridge. Dozing in the chartroom, he 
had become aware of the change without need of being told of it 

220 



That is what is meant by sea sense. He had already studied the 
barometer, and set the pointer. 

The bridge was in absolute darkness, except for the dim, shaded 
light on the compass, reflected on the intent face of the quarter- 
master at the wheel. 

"There, Mr. Jones?" the Captain called into the darkness, his 
eyes not yet accustomed to the murk. 

"Aye, aye, sir. Out in the starboard wing. The breeze is freshen- 
ing." 

The Captain groped his way to the wing. "The glass is falling 
rapidly," he growled* "Looks like dirty weather! See that every- 
thing is secure round the decks." 

As he spoke a heavy spray crashed over the bridge. We instinc- 
tively ducked under the canvas dodger for shelter. "You duck like 
a real seaman," said the Captain to me, shaking the spray off his 
own shoulders. "Been round the Horn?" 

"Yes, sir, four times." 

"Well, damn it, m'son, by the look of things we're in for a worse 
dusting now than a Cape Horn snorter, or just as bad, anyhow!" 

With that he returned to the chartroom to look at the barometer 
again. On the Chief Officer's instructions, I went with the boat- 
swain and two seamen on a tour of the decks, to examine the 
lashings of all boats and gear from stem to stern. We found every- 
thing secure. A few early birds among the passengers were already 
astir. I warned the Chief Steward to see that all ports were closed 
and deadlights screwed down, and to inform the passengers, with- 
out alarming them, that we were running into heavy weather. 

A few minutes before the change of the watch at 8 A.M., the sun 
appeared above a low, gray bank of cloud on the horizon. Yellow 
and brassy looking, it presaged wind and plenty of it. I do not 
understand why wind coming from the westward can affect the 
appearance of the rising sun shining through the atmosphere far 
to the eastward, but every sailor can "see" a wind coming from 
signs in the sky, and this is one of them. The Captain was on the 
bridge again, looking glumly at the brassy sun, as the two officers 
of the eight to twelve watch arrived, dad in oilskins, sou'westers, 

221 



and seaboots. The quartermaster who had called them had warned 
them what to expect. 

"We'll be into the thick of it in an hour," said the Captain. 
"Are all ports, doors, and lashings secured?" 

"Aye, aye, sir," I reported. 

To the incoming officers he said, "Call me at once if anything 
unusual occurs." 

He retired to his chartroom, but not to rest. He wouldn't need 
much calling. He'd be there. The Chief Officer and I handed 
over the navigational details, such as the course, leeway, speed, 
engine revolutions, compass error, and barometer movements. 
Then we dived down to our quarters for a bath and breakfast. 

I came up on deck again at 9 A.M. The wind had risen to a "fresh 
gale" technically so defined when its velocity is between thirty- 
seven and forty-four knots. On our southwesterly course it was a 
wind from dead ahead. We were meeting the running seas head 
on. These had now been whipped by the gale to an average height, 
from trough to crest, of twenty feet. (Seas between twelve and 
twenty feet high are technically described as "high.") 

The Ivernia, like all Cunarders built between 1875 and 1930, 
had a straight stem, and a counter or "cutaway" stern. The raking 
stem, which had proved so effective in clipper ships, was discarded 
in the design of the bigger steel-hull screw steamers for fifty-five 
years. (It was restored in Cunard liners built from 1930 onwards, 
including the Queen Mary and all the later modern Cunarders 
still in service.) 

The straight stem was probably based on the idea of cutting 
through seas rather than riding over them. The architects of the 
early screw-steamers were obsessed with the novelty of mechanical 
thrust-propulsion from the stern, from which it appeared logical 
that the stem of a screw-steamer should act like a knife, to cut 
through the seas, thereby reducing the pitching movement of a 
vessel which rides over the seas. The argument was valid when 
applied to smaller vessels, of up to 3,000 tons, traveling in slight 
or moderate seas of up to five feet in height. It remained a good 
argument when applied to larger screw-steamers, in rough seas of 
up to twelve feet. In these cases the straight or vertical knife-edge 

222 



stem did contribute something to the steadiness of a vessel of Ocean 
Grayhound proportions. 

In normal weather, of smooth, slight, and moderate seas, a 
steamer with a straight stem traveling at full speed throws up a 
much larger bow-wave than one with a raking stem. This indicates 
the cut-and-thrust principle of the straight stem. But in "rough/* 
"high," "very high," "precipitous," or "mountainous" seas, tower- 
ing from twelve to sixty feet from trough to crest, the straight 
stem, when hard driven by the thrust from astern to encounter 
these seas running from dead ahead, tends to bury itself rather than 
to ride over the seas, and in consequence water is shipped over the 
bows. 

This was happening when I went up to the boatdeck of the 
Ivernia at 9 A.M. during my watch below. I could not rest in my 
cabin. I was interested in the development of the gale, and in 
seeing how this renowned "steady" ship would weather it I 
wondered too if Captain Benison would drive on, into the teeth 
of the gale, by hook or by crook, as Captain Charles used to do in 
the old Umbria. I felt that I would learn something. I had an in- 
stinct from my training in sail, when all hands were usually 
called out on deck in a gale to shorten sail or do whatever else was 
necessary. I felt that I ought to stand by. 

The sky was overcast, with gray, murky douds, and there was a 
rain squall a few miles ahead. The wind-force was increasing, and 
the seas rapidly rising. All passengers had been advised, requested, 
persuaded, and in a few stubborn cases ordered to remain below 
decks. At every few minutes the ship put her bows under and 
scooped in the top of a sea that hurtled along the foredeck in a 
foaming cascade. Spray was flung high over the bridge. I saw the 
the Captain join the officers of the watch on the starboard wing, 
and duck with them under the dodger at each burst of spray. 

I went up to the bridge and stood by unobtrusively, out on the 
port wing, feeling that, as the most junior officer in the ship, I 
might be able to do something useful if required. I was there to be 
seen and not heard. We ran into a fierce rain squall, with some 
sleet in it, screaming savagely over the ship, and visibility almost 
nil. The wind and seas continued to increase rapidly, to strong gale 

223 



force (forty-four knots) and very high seas (up to thirty feet). Time 
after time the ship took heavy purlers over the bow. 

At 10 A.M., the Captain was out on the starboard wing with the 
First Officer, while the Third Officer stood by the engine telegraph 
in the wheelhouse, when three high seas in succession broke over 
the bow, flooding the f oredecks and throwing heavy spray over the 
bridge. The Captain ducked under the dodger, then, shaking the 
salt water out of his eyes, made his way into the wheelhouse and 
sang out, "HALF SPEED1" 

That was the end of driving on. The speed was reduced to 
eight knots, and the ship rode more easily, but now her bow lifted 
to each sea, and then dipped into the trough beyond, occasionally 
lifting her stern so that the propellers were out of the water and 
racing madly. This made her shudder from stem to stern. 

The Captain beckoned to me. "Go down below, Mister," he said, 
"and take a walk quietly through the second- and third-class decks. 
Keep your eyes peeled and report to me how the passengers are 
behaving, and if there's any flooding down below." 

I realized that a calm demeanor of even a junior officer strolling 
through would help to reassure passengers that there was no need 
for panic. The stewards and stewardesses were well trained in 
dealing with nervous passengers in heavy weather, but my little 
show of gold braid might be useful as a substitute for the Captain's 
normal morning inspection. 

With the ship plunging and frequently shuddering, it was not 
easy to take a calm stroll, but by keeping my feet well apart, and 
adjusting my gait to the ship's movements, I went unhurriedly 
along the alleyways and through the public rooms, stopping occa- 
sionally to ask a steward or stewardess how things were. It was ob- 
vious that many of the passengers, especially the emigrants in the 
third class, were sick and some were frightened. Most had taken the 
advice of the stewards to retire to their bunks, accepting the time- 
worn explanation that we "were only crossing the Devil's Hole" 
but the atmosphere down below was stuffy, and the smell of spew 
distinctly noticeable. At any inquiry from passengers, I put on what 
I hoped was a cheerful grin, and said, "Nothing to worry aboutl 

224 



It's only a bit of rough weather, usual at this time o' year. We'll 
soon be through it." 

I returned to the bridge, and reported to the Captain that every- 
thing down below was under control. 

"Good," he grunted, but in an absent-minded way. His thoughts 
were now only on the weather and on his ship and her safe han- 
dling. At the change of the watch at noon, all the officers were on 
the bridge for observations. It was out of the question to take sights 
of the sun. The doud ceiling was low and murky, and obscured the 
sky from horizon to horizon. Dead reckoning of our position by 
the readings of the Patent Log and of the compass course was not 
entirely reliable, as the estimation of drift was difficult. This was 
not in itself of great importance in midocean, when there was no 
land hazard ahead of us for two thousand miles. 

The barometer had dropped to a reading of 28.0, and was still 
falling. The noon entry in the log read: "Heavy gale with 
hurricane squalls. Mountainous seas. Ship pitching and laboring, 
and shipping large volumes of water fore and aft." 

I went below for lunch, and then to my cabin, to lie in my bunk, 
fully clothed, for a few hours rest before going on watch again at 
4 P.M. I knew then that a strenuous time was ahead. The weather 
was working up to a full-scale North Atlantic storm. 

The North Atlantic in winter is no place for "flying-fish sailors" 
so-called because flying fish are found mostly in the fair-weather 
subtropical latitudes, where sailing ships bowl along steadily for 
day after day, in the benevolent tradewinds, with little work to be 
done except to "sweat up" the halyards at the change of the watch. 

I have heard experienced seamen say that North Atlantic gales 
can be more severe than Cape Horn gales. This statement needs 
qualification. Much depends on the point of view of the observer 
whether he is in a sailing vessel or a steamer, whether the steamer 
is small or big, and whether he is running before the gale or trying 
to make headway against itl 

There can be no denying that Cape Horn gales by which is 
meant in general all westerly gales of the high South Latitudes on 
the fringe of the Antarctic ice are of greater intensity and longer 
duration than North Atlantic gales. The reason for this is that 

225 



the prevailing westerly gales in the Southern Pacific, Atlantic, and 
Indian Oceans are almost continuously encircling the globe in the 
higher latitudes, to the south of Africa, Australia, and South 
America, with no land mass there to impede their force. The result 
is that the seas are heaped up, by the almost continual whipping of 
the prevailing wind, to dimensions, in height and length, greater 
than of seas anywhere else in the world. 

It is there that the grandest, most awe-inspiring combers roll 
on in unending succession, attaining heights regularly of from 
fifty to sixty feet when the wind rises to gale force, and sometimes 
towering to eighty feet from trough to crest under hurricane con- 
ditions. These "graybeards" often extend 1,000 feet from crest to 
crest. To a seaman in a small vessel of, say, 200 feet over-all length, 
and lowslung, with a freeboard of less than six feet between Plim- 
soll mark and bulwark rail, the gigantic seas appear as mountain- 
ous ridges of water, over which his vessel laboriously climbs, as- 
cending and descending steep slopes of water, so that, when he is in 
the trough between two great combers, he has walls of water ahead 
and astern, blotting out die horizon. It appears then that he will be 
instantly engulfed, but, as though by magic, the ship rises to the 
crest ahead, and surmounts it, only to begin again a terrifying 
slither into the trough beyond and so for day after day, perhaps 
week after week, poised on brinks and plunging into chasms. 

North Atlantic gales are of shorter duration. At storm force 
the wind may attain sixty knots, with hurricane squalls of sixty- 
five knots for short periods. The seas may be heaped up to forty 
feet high, from trough to crest, in a storm, with exceptional but 
rare combers sixty feet high in a hurricane squall. The average 
length of the biggest combers in a North Atlantic gale is from 
300 to 400 feet from crest to crest. These dimensions are formid- 
able enough, but much less than those of the Cape Horn gray- 
beards. In a passenger liner of 600 to 700 feet over-all length, with 
her navigating bridge seventy feet above smooth-water level, seas 
forty feet and even sixty feet high do not appear insurmountable. 
The horizon is not lost sight of from the bridge, even when the 
vessel is in the deepest trough. 

The comparatively smaller seas encountered in North Atlantic 

226 



gales smaller only in comparison with the supreme magnificence 
of the Cape Horn hurricane seas is due to the fact that most of 
the storms in the North Atlantic are of a rotary character, and 
therefore the wind is not blowing for very long in a fixed direc- 
tion. Before the seas are able to get into their stride, as it were, the 
veering wind sets up running seas across them. The result, known 
as "cross seas," is a confused turmoil on the surface of the water. 
This occurs also occasionally in the High South Latitudes, but is 
much less typical there than in North Atlantic storms. 

The Atlantic being a "pond," though a big one, flanked by land 
masses on its eastern and western sides, cannot readily develop 
westerly gales, sustained for weeks, as happens in the unimpeded 
waters of the High South. All westerly gales in the North Atlantic 
come offshore. Wind is the flow of air from a region of higher 
pressure to a region of lower pressure. Winds sweeping westerly 
from the Pacific across the North American continent have to sur- 
mount the impediment of the Rocky Mountains on the western 
side of a wide land mass, which may deflect them or reduce their 
force. Their effect in whipping up waters in the Atlantic can be- 
gin only offshore. Seas cannot be fully developed to, say, forty feet 
high, within 600 or 700 miles offshore. 

The landsman's word for seas, namely "waves," happens to be 
scientifically accurate. These heaped up masses of water are un- 
dulations. The body of water is not carried along, as it appears to 
be, but is raised and lowered practically in the same place. The 
ocean is a filled bowl. The only progressive movement of its sur- 
face is in currents and tides, which circulate slowly around in the 
bowl. The "waves" or seas are formed on the surfaces of the cur- 
rents and tides, but in themselves do not progress. 

A spar of timber, floating awash, that is, almost submerged and 
not affected by wind, would make little forward progress in a 
storm. It would undulate up and down in the seas almost in the 
same place. Any forward movement would be due to the "scend" 
or heave of the ocean. That is a factor difficult to calculate. It is 
the impetus given to a floating object by the downslope of a 
wave. That impetus, allied to a momentum of gravity, may carry 
the floating object at times through the trough between waves, 

227 



and into the undulation of the neighboring wave; but as a rule 
a spar awash would remain for a great number of undulations 
within the ambit or grip of one wave, before moving on to the 
next. An ocean current would move the spar from wave to wave, 
but that is not what is meant by the "scend" of the seas. 

A vessel in motion, whether propelled by sails, screws or oars- 
progresses over the undulations of the seas, affected only very 
slightly by the "scend." She is affected by currents, and tides, and 
also by winds, as are icebergs. A sailing vessel with no sails set, or 
a steamer with her engines stopped, or a derelict vessel, would 
move over the undulating seas, slowly, by the impetus of currents 
and of wind pressures on her hull and superstructure, slightly 
modified by the "scend." In a steamer under way by screw-pro- 
pulsion, allowance has to be made by her navigators for these 
invisible factors, which are known as "leeway." 

When Captain Benison reduced the Ivernia's speed to eight 
knots, his purpose was to enable her to ride the seas more easily, 
rather than to cut with her straight stem into their crests; and so 
to avoid shipping water over the bows which might cause damage 
on deck. But this is a problem for the master of any screw-pro- 
pelled vessel driving into the teeth of a gale a reduction to half 
speed does not eliminate the thrust of the bows into the seas. 
It lessens the impact, but half speed for one vessel may be equiv- 
alent to full speed for another. That depends of her engine power. 

Any thrust into head-on seas, even at a speed of two knots, uses 
the challenge of mechanical propulsion in defiance of the "na- 
tural" behavior of an inert buoyant object floating on the surface 
of the water. The safest method of riding out a heavy gale, in a 
steamer as in a sailing vessel, is to "heave to." 

In a sailing vessel this means lying with the bow pointed as 
closely as possible into the wind. Only lower topsails and a staysail 
are set, braced sharp up, or in a hurricane only a goose-winged 
main lower topsail, to maintain steering-way. It is impossible in a 
sailing vessel to point dead into the eye of the wind, but she will 
ride out a gale hove to with the wind and sea five or six points on 
the bow, and in this manner will ship very few seas from ahead or 
astern, no matter how precipitous the seas may be. 

228 



In a steamer, to "heave to" means to keep her head on to the 
seas, with the engine speed reduced to the minimum necessary to 
maintain steering way that is, to prevent her from falling off into 
the trough of the sea. 

A vessel, either in sail or steam, which, through lack of steering 
way, or faulty steering, "falls off" into the trough of precipitous 
seas, is in extreme danger, and is said to have "broached to." This 
is a predicament difficult to get out of without damage. A vessel 
wallowing beam on in the trough may be rolled over on her beam 
ends and founder, or she may receive the full force of a crashing sea 
of thousands of tons which could wash away deck gear and super- 
structures and stave in the hatches. 

The responsibility of the master of a steamer in a heavy gale 
with hurricane squalls requires him to decide the speed necessary 
to maintain steering way, or, if he thinks it advisable, to thrust on 
and make headway. The foregoing remarks apply in general to 
gales encountered head-on. A gale may strike from any point of 
the compass. A vessel may run before a gale with the wind dead 
astern or on either quarter, but, if the wind reaches hurricane 
force and the seas are precipitous, it may be advisable to put her 
about and ride out the storm hove to. 

Shipmasters in 1908 did not have the advantage of the detailed 
weather reports and forecasts which are available by radio today. 
Most Atlantic gales are of short duration and the storm-center is 
localized. The worst of them can be avoided by change of course 
on radio advice. Ship design has improved, speeds are far greater 
(enabling storms to be outrun or passed through quickly), and 
the bigger passenger vessels, of 40,000 tons and upwards, are al- 
most, if not quite, "stormproof and immune to the uncomfortable 
effects of a "dusting." 

The length of a ship in no way affects her ability to ride out 
precipitous seas. When the Queen Mary was launched, there were 
prophets of doom who declared that her length (1,019 feet over- 
all) would cause her to "break her back" when she became "sus- 
pended" (as the prophets gloomily predicted), "with her bow on 
the crest of one wave and her stern on the crest of another!" This 
preposterous idea was based on ignorance of the nature of un- 

229 



dulations and of the behavior of buoyant objects in water. Seas 
have no rigid strength. Thy part, break and seethe along the sides 
of a ship riding over and through them. This is what happens when 
seas are shipped from forward it is only the crest of a sea that 
occasionally slaps over the bow of a ship thrusting through it. 
A "wave" is nothing more than an undulation in water. Small ves- 
sels ride over it. Big vessels cut through it. 

When I went on watch again at 4 P.M., the gale had reached its 
full fury. The wind was at storm velocity (sixty knots), with fre- 
quent hurricane squalls (sixty-five knots and over), and the seas 
averaged forty feet high, with occasional groups of three or four, 
rising to fifty and sixty feet, piled up by the squalls. 

The Captain was on the bridge, his face tense and strained. "It 
should have blown itself out by now," he grumbled to the Chief 
Officer. "Twelve hours! But the glass is down to 27.60. It couldn't 
go much, lower!" 

The speed had been reduced to four knots. Like all shipmasters 
of his generation, Captain Benison hated reducing speed. It was a 
matter of pride with him to press on and to arrive on schedule. 
'Tour knots!" he growled, "First the fog, now this. We'll make 
Boston a day late two days hell!" 

The officers we were relieving handed over the details to us, 
and went below for a well-earned rest. But the Captain stayed with 
us, and, while he was on the bridge, the Chief Officer had to leave 
every decision to him. "Look at those seas!" said the Captain. 
"Getting higher and higher. Heaping up like mountains. Damn 
my luck!" 

We went out to the port wing of the bridge. Darkness was al- 
ready closing in, with an eerie greenish tinge in the sky below the 
heavy clouds. The curling crests of the combers stretched ahead of 
us, seeming to advance in endless succession, towering high above 
our bows, their steep black fronts streaked with lacy foam. There 
was a sinister phosphorescence in the crests of these seas, a gleam- 
ing that marked their lines in the darkness with a diffused radiance. 
The wind screamed. It whipped the crests off the seas into spin- 
drift which flew through the air in flakes of foam. As our bow cut 

230 



into the seas, one after the other, curtains of spray were flung high 
over the foredeck and the bridge, splattering against the glass 
windows o the wheelhouseand against the canvas dodgers on the 
wings. 

The ship was not rolling, but she was pitching jerldly as she 
drove into the seas head-on. Suddenly we saw a group of three 
monster seas, which towered twenty feet higher than the others. 
They were sixty feet from trough to crest. In a minute we were 
thrusting into them. The first broke and foamed along our sides. 
The second and third crashed on the forecastle head, swept along 
the foredeck and pounded heavily against the lower bridge. 

Sea and sky mingled in a grinding, crashing crescendo of tu- 
mult. There was a cracking sound, and, as the water poured away 
overside, we saw that three of the lifeboats, on the starboard side 
of the boatdeck, had been splintered to matchwood. 

The Captain, shaking himself like a water spaniel, sprang to 
the engine-room telegraph, and moved the handle to DEAD SLOW. 

He had acknowledged defeat. We were compelled to heave to. 
The propellers were turning over only enough to give us bare 
steering-way. To the helmsman the Captain said briskly, "Keep 
her head on to the seas. Never mind the course or compass. Watch 
her bow. Watch the seas ahead. Be sure she doesn't fall off and 
broach to." 

To me he said, "Stand by the helmsman, Mister, and see that 
he keeps her head on." 

"Aye, aye, sir!" I said, but I was thinking what a young officer 
has no right to think why didn't he heave to earlier and save 
damaging the boats? 

The answer is the Captain knows best. . . . 

For the next three-and-a-half hours of that watch, I stood by the 
helmsman, the Chief Officer stood by me, and the Captain stood 
by the Chief Officer all in grim silence, intently peering ahead 
into the blackness at the flecked crests of the foaming mountainous 
seas, whipped by squall after squall. 

Hove to, the Ivernia was riding the seas as well as any ship of 
her size could be expected to ride them, but in the violent squalls 
she could not avoid pitching steeply as she plunged into the hol- 

231 



low of each sea and next minute rose giddily to its crest, shedding 
hundreds of tons of water from her bows as the spume and spray 
swirled over her. 

At 6:30 P.M., the barometer had steadied. "Change comingl" 
the Captain announced. At that moment a terrific squall of wind 
and rain hit the ship like a final blast of hate. She staggered and 
shuddered, as though struck by a hammer-blow, then reeled, 
lurched like a drunken man, and listed over to port to an angle of 
twenty-five degrees. The bridge-boy, standing at my side, clutched 
at me for support, missed his grip, lost balance, fell to the deck, 
and slithered and rolled along to the port wing like a skittle in an 
alley. There he fetched up against the rail. We others were hang- 
ing on to anything handy. The air was filled with flying spray 
and everything was in confusion. The ship righted herself as she 
rose to the crest of a sea, put her nose into it, took a purler over the 
bow, and shook herself free like a living thing, then lurched to 
starboard as she slithered at an angle down the slope into the 
trough, her steering-way temporarily lost. 

The quartermaster with quick presence of mind swung the 
wheel, and steadied her as she answered the rudder and rose to 
the next sea head-on. "Good work!" the Captain grunted. 

We had avoided broaching to. Then the air suddenly cleared 
of spindrift, and there was a queer silence. The whistling of the 
wind had ceased entirely. It was a lull. We were in the center of 
the storm, its quiet heart around which all the furies raged. 

"Watch for the change of the wind!" The Captain hurried to 
the starboard wing and peered into the black sky. In a few 
minutes a gust came from the northwest. The gale had veered 
through a full quadrant from S.W. to N.W., and in another few 
minutes was blowing again from that quarter with rapidly in- 
creasing force. 

"Half speed ahead!" was the order. The seas were still running 
from the S.W., under the impetus of hours of whipping by the 
wind from that direction, but now they would gradually subside 
to become a swell that would continue for hours. But, cutting di- 
rectly across this swell, at right angles, were seas now being newly 
heaped-up by the N.W. gale. 

232 



The Captain returned into the wheelhouse. "Cross-seas, 
them!' 1 he grumbled. Then he said to the Chief Officer, "Keep her 
head on to the swell, Mister, until the cross-seas get up too high, 
then alter course gradually to West as you think fit." 

With that he went into the chartroom. The surface of the ocean 
had now become wildly troubled and confused. The swell from 
the S.W. was still heaping up in seas twenty feet high, but cross- 
seas from the N.W. were running laterally into them, and increas- 
ing. The ship now began to do some "fancy rolling" that is, to 
roll and pitch simultaneously, with a wild irregular movement, 
like that of a bucking broncho striving to buck off its rider and 
saddle. 

The waters seethed, as though they were boiling weirdly with- 
out heat. Spray was whipped from the crests of the seas abeam, 
and, as the ship lurched, she took dollops of water from the wind- 
ward side onto the afterdeck. This was one difference between 
sail and steam. A sailing vessel, under press of sail with the wind 
abeam, heels over to leeward and ships water over the lee rail; but 
a steamer rolling in the trough of seas from abeam is more likely 
to ship water on the weather side, since she rolls as much to one 
side as to the other. 

Eight bells struck for the change of the watch. The cry of the 
lookout men from the crow's nest, "All's well and lights burning 
brightlyl" was not reassuring in the circumstances. Our relief 
came, and the Captain stepped out of the chartroom with a dark 
scowl on his red face or so we could surmise, for we could not see 
him distinctly in the blackness on the bridge. 

He conferred briefly with the Chief Officer and the relieving 
officer of the watch, but not to ask advice or even to give it only 
to give orders, for, the instant that he stepped onto the bridge, 
his was the sole and full authority there. He went out to the star- 
board wing, eyed the seas ahead and abeam, then returned into 
the wheelhouse, glanced at the compass, and said, "Alter course to 
due West." Then he added, "Increase speed gradually as the seas 
abate." 

His tactics were to run through the bufferings of the troubled 
seas on a middle course between the S.W. swell and the N.W. 

233 



gale, to avoid a direct hammering from abeam on either side, by 
taking glancing blows from them on both sides, and at the same 
time to reduce the pitching movements of riding directly over the 
swells or the seas, head on. It was a difficult decision, which only 
he could take, for in. angry cross-seas any course that is steered 
must be uncomfortable. The ship is tossed like a cork in boiling 
water, and every decision as to course has its dangers. 

Yet the decision must be taken, rightly or wrongly, and that is 
the shipmaster's responsibility in every crisis, big or small. 

I went below, glad to be out of the wind, the wet, the cold, and 
the turmoil. After a meal I turned in to my bunk, but kept my 
dothes on, to be ready at short call if some emergency should 
arise. I put out the light, turned my face to the bulkhead, and, 
rocked in the cradle of the deep, fell instantly asleep without a 
worry in the world. The change of wind was a sure indication 
that we had passed through the center of the storm, and that in a 
few hours we would be out of the worst of it. 

At 3:45 A.M., I was called by the quartermaster, who brought in 
a steaming cup of tea, and at four o'clock I went up to the bridge. 
The Captain was still there, in his wet oilskins. He had not had a 
wink of sleep, and had not left the bridge and the chartroom for 
twenty-four hours. 

But, during my eight hours below, the storm had abated. We 
had run through its outer rotating ambit on the westward side 
toward its verge. There was still a swell from the S.W., combined 
with high running seas, and a moderate gale from the N.W., 
creating cross-seas, but these were subsiding. The engines were 
now at full ahead, and we had returned to a southwesterly course. 

After the change of the watch, and instructions to the Chief 
Officer, the jaded Captain, satisfied that all danger was past, 
handed his wet oilskin to a quartermaster, and went down to his 
cabin for a sleep. As he went, he said to the Chief Officer, "Call 
me if there is anything unusual, Mister. Clear up that boat wreck- 
age when daylight comes in." 

At dawn the skies had cleared, and the seas were subsiding. The 
Chief Officer rubbed his hands together gleefully, and commented, 
"That was a bit of a dusting, wasn't it?" 

234 



"She came through it all right," I said. 
"She's a steady old tub." 

At daylight, before the passengers were astir, I was sent with 
the carpenter, the boatswain, and some deckhands to clear up 
the wreckage of the three splintered lifeboats. It was remarkable 
that hammer blows of water had been able to splinter the yellow- 
pine planks of these clinker-built boats to matchwood, as though 
a giant had been at work with an axe. A weight of thousands of 
tons of water, from the crest of a curling comber, had stove in the 
canvas covers and then burst the planks apart, splintering them 
where they were fastened to the rock-elm timbers (ribs) by copper 
nails. 

The wreckage was cleared away, and stowed down below, before 
the first pale and shaken passengers came out on deck for a breath 
of fresh air and a prebreakfast promenade after their ordeal. 

Yes, it had been their ordeal. They now had the smiling faces of 
persons saved by the mercy of Providence from an awful and un- 
deserved doom. It had been their ordeal because they had only 
their imaginations to rely on while the ship had writhed in the 
turmoil of the storm. Those with vivid imaginations or guilty con- 
sciences had suffered the most at the prospect of being plunged 
to a watery doom; but now all was well. The sun rose, like the 
passengers, with a sickly smile. The Atlantic Ocean had done its 
worst, and had failed to destroy us. 

Four days later we ran into a fog to the southward of Sable 
Island. We had to reduce speed to half, and later to slow, as we 
groped our way towards Massachusetts Bay, hooting like a lost 
soul at every minute, and frequently sounding with the old- 
fashioned 28-pounds lead and pressure-gauge to check our posi- 
tion. 

Wraiths drifted by fishing smacks and sometimes a square- 
rigged Down Easter, or a steamer, big or small all at risk of col- 
lision avoided only by keen lookout never relaxed. Occasionally, 
if we heard the steam whistle of another vessel ahead, we stopped. 
In these conditions, the Captain had no thought of leaving the 

235 



bridge. He went for fifty hours without sleep before we reached 
the Boston Light Vessel and took the pilot on board. We were 
two days late. 

"What happened?" asked the pilot. 

Captain Benison smiled wanly. "Only fog at the start and finish, 
and a bit of a dusting in midocean!" 

"Some of your boats carried awayl" said the pilot, observantly. 

"Shipped a purler," was the laconic reply. 

Understatement was meritorious. The Glowworm, like every 
other shipmaster in passenger liners, was well aware that his living 
depended on the sale of steamer tickets by the travel agencies on 
shore. How could he admit that the North Atlantic could be un- 
comfortably stormy at times? 

The pilot understood. "Got to expect it at this time of the year," 
he grinned. 

The mist lifted as we steered through the channels among the 
shoals of Boston Bay, and into the calm and beautiful inner waters 
of Boston Harbor, to anchor at quarantine for two hours until 
"Pratique" was granted. Then with the aid of two tugs, we pro- 
ceeded up to the dock and into berth. 

The streets of the historic city of culture, churches, kindness, 
and decency were knee-deep in snow. There can be no more 
hospitable city than Boston. The Cunard mail-steamer service was 
inaugurated between Liverpool and Boston in July, 1840, in the 
little wooden-hull, paddle-wheel steamer Britannia (1,154 tons). 
With auxiliary sail, she took twelve days for the crossing, and, 
when she paddled in past Fort Independence to her berth, on her 
maiden voyage, all Boston went wild with excitement. The Cap- 
tain received fourteen hundred written invitations to dinner! 

The Cunard Line seemed to "belong" to Boston almost as much 
as to Liverpool. No people in the world surpass Bostonians in 
the understanding of seamanship; for here was the home of the 
Massachusetts whalers who roamed every ocean in their heyday 
in the eighteenth century, and as seamen and boatmen were unex- 
celled. They left a memory in sea history that can never fade, for 
they roamed afar, even into the uncharted waters of the Great 
Pacific, to visit many islands and havens known then only to them- 

236 



selves; and Cape Horn was their regular and familiar homeward 
bound landmark. 

What these Nantucket men, and their neighbors of Maine and 
the "Blue Noses" of the Bay of Fundy, didn't know about building 
and handling wooden ships under sail was scarcely worth knowing. 
They knew it from their British and their Dutch ancestors, with 
their own Yankee traditions added, and the end result was a 
toughness and the sea lore of the "iron men in wooden ships" 
all the more remarkable because their era came to an end so sud- 
denly when the ships, instead of the men, were built of iron. 

Boston would be the last place in which to make a fuss about 
a storm in the Atlantic. When the Ivernia berthed, the ship-news 
reporters came on board, and knocked at the weary Captain's door. 
"You're very late, Captain," they said. "You must have had a 
tough trip. What's the story?" 

The Glowworm could scarcely keep his eyes open. He was too 
tired even to be tactless. "No story, boys," he said, quietly. "Noth- 
ing happened!" 

"But, Cap'n two days late! Why?" 

"Fog!" 

"Did you run into any storms?" 

"Storms? Oh, yes, just a bit o' bad weather, y'know, and three 
lifeboats washed away by a heavy sea. Hardly worth mentioning. 
It's wintertime in the North Atlantic, y'know. Got to expect a bit 
of a dusting. The ship was very steady, y'know. Rode it like a 
duck." 

And that was all. 

I made two voyages with Captain Benison in the Ivernia, with 
storms and fog on each of the four crossings, delaying our arrivals. 
On the homeward passage of the second voyage, we were due at 
Liverpool on Christmas Eve but on that day we were fogbound 
off the southwest of Ireland, and anxiously groping our way to- 
wards a hoped-for landfall at Fastnet Lighthouse. 

After five days' heavy weather in midocean, with no sight of the 
sun or stars, we had entered the fog blanket and reduced speed to 
slow, without any means of being sure of our position. The Cap- 

237 



tain had had very little, if any, sleep for days. He paced the bridge, 
anxious and irritable, frequently ordering the engines to be 
stopped, while we took soundings and listened intently for the 
Fastnet fog signal, or for the much more dreaded sound of surf on 
the ironbound coast of West Cork or Kerry, where many a vessel 
under sail in bygone years had been driven to destruction by 
westerly gales. 

At midnight the engines were stopped. Next morning, the fog 
was still thick, but it was Christmas morning. The Captain was 
on the bridge. He had not slept all night. Daylight came in, with 
light airs that swirled the veils of mist eerily, permitting occasional 
clear glimpses ahead and abeam. The ship was going slow ahead, 
her steam-whistle hooting at one-minute intervals. The sea was 
smooth, and our decks were crowded with passengers, cheerily 
wishing each other a Merry Christmas. 

To conform with custom, I went up to the Captain, and, with the 
proper mixture of cheerfulness and respect, said to him, "I wish 
you a merry Christmas, sirl" 

The Glowworm looked at me dolefully. "I don't want a merry 
Christmas, 1 ' he grumbled. "I only want to sight the Fastnet!" 

Half an hour later he had his wish. The fog lifted and we 
sighted the lighthouse. Excellent navigation had kept us true on 
our course. The Captain went below, saying, "Full ahead, Mister," 
and had his first sleep for days. 

Four hours later we had to call him at Daunt's Rock for the 
entrance to Queenstown. 

Our Irish passengers were ashore in Ould Erin for Christmas 
Day, or part of it. They disembarked at 1 P.M. The weather was 
clear, and next morning we berthed in the Mersey, at the Liverpool 
Landing Stage. 

The Marine Superintendent sent for me and informed me that 
he was transferring me from the North Atlantic to the Medi- 
terranean service, and that I would be Third Officer in S.S. Brescia 
under Captain Arthur Rostron. 

At that season of the year, the sunny Mediterranean appeared 

238 



to me to be much more attractive than the foggy and stormy North 
Atlantic. 

I have been in many fogs and storms in the Atlantic since that 
winter of 1908, and I now have a better understanding of Captain 
Benison's anxieties than I had then. I learned many things from 
him, and one of them was that it's no use worrying. All proper 
precautions must be taken, but even the Captain must sleep 
sometimes. 



239 



CHAPTER NINETEEN 



The S.S. "Brescia" Captain Arthur Rostron 
The Power of Prayer Many Ports of Call The 
Coal Wharf at Venice Greek and Turkish Ports 
The Dardanelles The Black Sea Smyrna 
Quails at Alexandria Mediterranean Kaleido- 
scope The Wreck of the S.S. "Republic" 
Magic of Wireless The Wreck of the S.S. "SZa- 
vonia" My First Visit to London A Commis- 
sion in the R.N.R. I Meet May. 



WHEN I was posted to the S.S. Brescia in January, 1909, 1 had re- 
turned to cargo carrying. Launched at Sunderland in 1903, she 
was the newest of a fleet of seven small steamers of the Cunard 
Line employed on a cargo service between Liverpool and Mediter- 
ranean ports. The others on this service were the Saragossa, 2,166 
tons (launched 1874), the Cherbourg, 1,614 tons (launched 1875), 
the Pavia, Tyria, and Cypria, each of 3,000 tons (launched 1897- 
98), and the Verio,, 3,228 tons (launched 1899). 

The two oldest vessels in this fleet, the Saragossa and the Cher- 
bourg, were scrapped in 1909, to be replaced by the Phrygia and 
the Lycia, which were purchased in that year from other owners, 
and renamed. 

On an average, six vessels of the fleet were in service at any 

240 



time, maintaining fortnightly sailings from Liverpool. They called 
at a great number of Mediterranean ports, and ranged also to 
the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea ports. A voyage occupied twelve 
weeks, including a week in the home port of Liverpool. 

I remained for almost three years in this service, from January, 
1909, to November, 1911. It was hard work! Despite the smart 
paint and the Cunard house flag, these little steamers were only 
cargo carriers. They took no passengers or mails, and had an 
average service speed of from eight to ten knots. They loaded gen- 
eral cargo from Liverpool, and coal, tinplate and sulphate of cop- 
per from Swansea, and picked up cargo of any and every kind, at 
ports of call along the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black Sea 
shores, where the peoples of three continents Europe, Asia, and 
Africa have mingled, traded, and fought one another for thou- 
sands of years. 

Cunard's Mediterranean cargo service operated principally to 
collect and "feed" cargo to the Company's transatlantic services, 
including the Adriatic service from Naples, Palermo, Trieste, and 
Fiume, and the regular passenger-and-mail runs from Liverpool. 
We were the humble handmaidens of the grand ladies of the 
Western Ocean. It was a comedown in the world to be working in 
a little cargo steamer again, but practically all Cunard officers 
were posted to this service, in rotation, at various periods in their 
careers, as was only right, and to be expected. Life is a sequence 
of ups and downs for most people, and it is wise to take the rough 
with the smooth, without grumbling. Yet despite the comparative 
discomforts and constant hard work, this service had the compen- 
sation of never being monotonous. Calling at more than twenty 
ports on each voyage, we had a variety of quickly changing scenes, 
and a great deal of experience docking and undocking, in ports 
of all sorts. 

The S.S. Brescia, 3,235 tons, was a steel-hulled, single-screw 
steamer, 343 feet long and 45 feet beam. She had a "three island" 
profile that is, a raised fo'c'sle head, midship house and poop, 
with welldecks fore and aft, each with two hatchways opening to 
her four cargo-holds. She could carry 4,000 tons of cargo. She had 

241 



a single stumpy funnel abaft the bridge, and two steel masts, sixty 
feet high, fitted with derricks. Her cabins amidships and the 
crew's quarters fore and aft were well found, with furniture, 
carpets, curtains, and other fittings of a quality seldom seen in 
cargo steamers. They were secondhand from some of the Com- 
pany's earlier-day passenger liners which had been scrapped or 
refitted. Though worn and faded, they were luxurious enough to 
put the Brescia and the other Cunard cargo steamers in a class by 
themselves. 

The Master of the Brescia was Captain Arthur H. Rostron, who, 
at forty years of age, had now attained his first command in the 
Cunard service. Born in Bolton, Lancashire, in 1869, he had served 
his time in sailing ships around Cape Horn, and had been First 
Mate of a clipper ship, Cedric the Saxon. He had joined the 
Cunard service in the 1890's, making voyages as a junior officer in 
the Umbria, Etruria, and Campania, and then as Chief Officer in 
the Pannonia on her maiden voyage in 1903. He was appointed 
Chief Officer in the Lusitania on her trials in 1907, and did so 
well in that responsible position that he was promoted to Captain 
in the Company's service and given command of the Brescia! 

Arthur Rostron was a great seaman, who eventually (in 1928) 
became Commodore of the Cunard Line and was knighted. I had 
the privilege of serving under his command later in the Carpathia 
and the Mauretania, as well as in the Brescia; and at a later period 
again in the gigantic Berengaria. At all times I had the greatest re- 
spect for him as a seaman, a disciplinarian, and as a man who 
could make a decision quickly and stick to it. 

He was not the burly type of jolly old sea-dog. Far from it, he 
was of thin and wiry build, with sharp features, piercing blue eyes, 
and rapid, agile movements. His nickname in the Cunard service 
was "the Electric Spark" which fairly described his dynamic 
quality. In his habits he was austere, with strong religious con- 
victions. He did not drink, smoke, or use profanity, but his be- 
liefs were his own, and he did not discuss them on board ship. He 
was a believer in the power of prayer. Very often, when he was on 
the bridge, and everything going smoothly, I have seen him stand 
a little to one side, close his eyes, and lift his uniform cap two or 

242 



three incites above his head, while his lips moved in silent prayer. 
His faith was real, and we respected him for it. In addition to 
years of tough service in sail, he had qualified as an officer in 
the Royal Naval Reserve on a voyage in a British warship on the 
China station during the Spanish-American war. He had seen 
life in the rough and the raw, afloat and ashore, but his religious 
faith remained, as his source of inner strength. 

He was not a typical shipmaster, either in appearance or in his 
inner piety; yet in any nautical crisis or routine work he was 
excellent in his profession: one of the greatest merchant sea cap- 
tains of his time. 

The Brescia had a complement of thirty or forty men all told 
no passengers, no elaborate catering arrangements and big cater- 
ing staff, no swank, no fuss! We were working men, doing our 
share of the world's work, just that. She had three navigating 
officers Chief, Second, and Third. 

This meant that, when we were at sea, I, as Third Officer, had 
charge of a watch for the first time in my service with the Cunard 
Line; but on our route of many ports of call, we were so frequently 
"on stations," entering or leaving port, mooring and unmooring, 
that there was never a chance to settle down into a regular sea 
routine of watch-keeping for more than a day or two between 
ports. 

When we were in ports, all three officers were required to be on 
deck from 7 A.M. to 6 P.M. to supervise the loading and unload- 
ing of cargo. We were on duty, in one way or another, on an aver- 
age eighty hours a week, but we saw nothing to complain of in 
that. It was our professional task to work the ship on her sched- 
uled routes, and we snatched rest or recreation as and when we 
could. 

Before leaving Liverpool we would load a cargo of 3,000 tons 
of general merchandise, comprising almost everything of Britain's 
immense variety of industrial production. The stowing and tally- 
ing of crates, cases, bags, bundles, bales, packages of all shapes 
and sizes, for delivery in parcels to twenty or more ports along 
our route, was a matter of nice calculation by the stevedores. The 

243 



officers were required to tally the cargo, in accordance with the 
ship's manifest, and to see that it was stowed in a manner which 
would not affect the stability of the ship at sea. 

The cargo had to be stowed so that it would be handy for un- 
loading at our many ports of call in their sequence. The parcels 
to be last unloaded, at the furthest ports, would be stowed in the 
bottom of the holds, and those to be first unloaded would be the 
last to be loaded, with the parcels for intermediate ports in se- 
quence between. This was not easy, for example, if bags of salt 
or chemicals, or ores, which might burst, had to be stowed on top 
of foodstuffs, such as flour or sugar, which could be contaminated, 
or on top of packages of textiles or other goods which could be 
damaged by contact with leaking chemicals or fluids. 

Such problems are commonplace in all cargo carrying vessels; 
but usually a cargo steamer has only two or three ports of call, 
whereas we had twenty or thirty. To make loading more difficult, 
one hold had to be reserved for 1,000 tons of coal loaded at Swan- 
sea and delivered at Venice. This was a standing order that the 
Company had obtained for fortnightly deliveries of that quantity 
of anthracite to the Italian Naval Station at Venice. It conferred 
on the smart-looking Cunard cargo carriers the status of colliers, 
in regard to one-quarter of our capacity on our outward bound 
passages as far as Venice. Yet coal, like anything else, must be cor- 
rectly stowed, and delivered according to the manifest. 

With three holds loaded and one empty, we would clear out of 
Liverpool, and steam to Swansea in South Wales, a run of 236 
miles, which, at our steady pace required forty hours in fine 
weather, from dock to dock, and three or four days in fog. 

The coal would be loaded at Swansea in a few hours, and we 
would clear out on the tide, by night or by day, drop the Bristol 
Channel pilot at Lundy Island, and set course to get bearings 
from Bishop Rock Lighthouse, the western outlier of the Scilly 
Isles. The course then was southwards across the mouth of the 
English Channel and the western side of the Bay of Biscay to Cape 
Finisterre in Portugal, a run of approximately 500 miles from 
Swansea, taking from two-and-a-half to three days, according to 
the weather. This was the roughest part of the voyage, as a rule, 

244 



in seas or swell running from the starboard beam, which caused 
the ship to roll or wallow disturbingly in the troughs. 

After sighting Cape Finisterre, we proceeded southwards along 
the coast of Portugal to Lisbon, getting bearings by landmarks. 
The run from Swansea to Lisbon, 830 miles, a passage of four 
days, was one of our longest spells of uninterrupted sea routine 
in the entire voyage. 

Thereafter it was a laborious sequence of entering ports, han- 
dling cargo, and clearing out of ports in rapid succession, for week 
after week, with short runs from port to port. 

Despite long working hours, broken sleep, and the necessity for 
sustained vigilance on lookout and in navigation, as well as in 
handling cargo, I found the experience interesting and varied. It 
was usually possible to have a stroll on shore in strange surround- 
ings, and to enjoy some of the advantages of travel, which sup- 
posedly "broadens the mind." 

From Lisbon we proceeded to Gibraltar, 302 miles, and from 
there had an uninterrupted run of 843 miles to Genoa, which 
took us from three-and-a-half to four days. 

At Genoa the complications began. There we would lie for two 
or three days, discharging cargo, and loading the produce of 
Northern Italy for consignment to America, via transhipment 
ports for the Adriatic emigrant service at Naples, Messina, or 
Palermo. Then, too, we were providing a coastal cargo service 
around the shores of Italy. There were very few Italian ports that 
we did not visit. We went on from Genoa to Spezia and Leghorn, 
then to Naples, where I was on familiar ground. 

After two or three days juggling and tallying cargo in and out 
at Naples, we headed for Messina, and called there and at Catania 
in eastern Sicily. A little while previously there had been an earth- 
quake, and the town of Messina was in ruins, with thousands 
homeless. The cargo we brought included relief supplies of food, 
urgently needed. 

We then steamed on into the Adriatic, with calls at Brindisi, 
Bari, and Ancona and so to Venice. 

I had heard so much of the beauties and glories of Venice that 
it was a disappointment, after we had been piloted through the 

245 



difficult approach of Port Lido, and the narrow channel, to find 
that we were berthed at a most desolate spot the coal wharves of 
the Stazione Maritime, with nothing to see there except huge 
heaps of thousands of tons of coal, and the grime that goes with 
it We began discharging our cargo in heat, dust, and general 
discomfort. The work was done by laborers from on shore, who 
shoveled the coal into skips holding half a ton. These were hoisted 
out by the derricks and tipped on to a heap on the wharf. It was 
an irritatingly slow procedure. Each skip had to be tallied by the 
Second Officer or myself against the tally of an Italian clerk. At 
the end of the day, the tally-chits were handed to the Chief Officer. 

Tallying in Mediterranean ports was frequently "in dispute." 
The consignees' representatives either could not or would not 
count and add up correctly, or they had a different system from 
ours, which caused them to lose count but always in the con- 
signee's favor! For example, in a delivery of bagged salt, sugar, 
flour, or rice, the clerk would say, "I have received only 2,995 
bags, instead of 3,000 bags shown in the manifest." 

That meant that five bags were "in dispute." If there was no 
practicable way of recounting the bags in the wharf shed, the 
papers were signed accordingly "Five bags in dispute" and the 
consignee would claim a deduction. 

This happened so often that junior officers, tallying on behalf 
of the shipowners, became exasperated. The story is told of a jun- 
ior officer in this service who was sent aft by the Chief Officer, 
when the ship was at Alexandria, to receive on board, as deck 
cargo, three elephants. Being tired of tallying, and irritable with 
the heat, dust, flies, and general discomfort, the junior officer su- 
pervised the loading, and then handed in a chit to the Chief Of- 
ficer: "Received three elephants one in dispute!" 

A day's work tallying coal in the grime and desolation of the 
Stazione Maritime was scarcely a luxury-cruise tourist's introduc- 
tion to the beauties of Venice; but in the cool of the evenings, 
we washed and brushed up, and boarded a ferry which ran the 
length of the Grand Canal, with several stops. So we became tour- 
ists and saw all the sights, from the Bridge of Sighs to the Doge's 
Palace and St. Mark's Square, and at our leisure enjoyed a meal 

246 



and drinks in the open-air cafes, and listened to the orchestras 
playing. 

Venice had been the "Queen of the Seas" in the days when her 
merchant adventurers brought the produce of the Mediterranean 
here in small vessels; but their world was limited to that inland 
sea. They did not venture on the wide oceans, and their day of 
glory ended when the Spaniards, the Portuguese, the British, the 
Dutch, and the French opened ocean routes to all the continents 
of the terrestrial globe. Now Venice lives on its reputation. It is 
stranded on the shores of time. It was a great port of small ships. 

After our coal was discharged to the last lump, we hosed the 
black dust out of the hold, and steamed on to Trieste and Fiume. 
By this time most of our general cargo from Liverpool had been 
discharged, and a goodly portion of new cargo collected for tran- 
shipment to the Cunard Adriatic emigrant service, or to take home. 

From Fiume we headed southwards in the Adriatic along the 
Dalmatian coast. Then, according to the seasons, and advice from 
the Company's agents, we called at Greek ports such as Patras, 
Zane, Katakolo, and Kalamata, for consignments chiefly of cur- 
rants, raisins, and figs; and then rounded Cerigo Island to thread 
our way among the many islands of the Greek Archipelago, going 
northwards into the Aegean Sea. 

We usually called at Salonika, which in those days was a Turk- 
ish port. The Ottoman Empire still held a large part of the Cen- 
tral Balkans, including Macedonia and Albania, known as "Tur- 
key in Europe." We discharged and took in cargo at Salonika, and 
then headed eastwards, past Lemnos Island, into the narrow 
Strait of the Dardanelles, bound for Constantinople. Little could 
I have imagined that, within six years, that "Strait Impregnable" 
would be the cause of the death of tens of thousands of gallant 
men. 

The City of the Golden Horn which the Ancient Romans 
called "Byzantium," the Greeks "Constantinople," and the Turks 
"Istanbul" was in 1909 the Capital of the Ottoman Empire, 
which included Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Arabia, besides 
Turkey in Asia and the Balkan provinces of "Turkey in Europe." 

247 



The city is on the European shore of the narrow Bosphorus Strait, 
which leads to the Black Sea. This is the cork in the bottle neck, 
capable of preventing the Russian Black Sea Navy from entering 
the Mediterranean. 

Constantinople was the theme of an English song, popular in my 
youth: 

We don't want to fight, 
But, by Jingo, if we do . . . 
The Russians shall not have 
C.O.N.S.T.A.N.TJ.N.O.P.L.E! 

In 1909, when the Sultan still reigned, though with diminishing 
glory, Constantinople was a dramatically "oriental" looking city. 
The Turks wore baggy trousers and fezzes, and their womenfolk 
went heavily veiled in the streets. The glorious church of Saint 
Sophia was a Moslem mosque, and there were many other mosques 
and minarets and onion shaped domes in the city's skyline. The 
Grand Bazaar was a bedlam of clamor and a scene of vivid color 
and movement with coffee shops plentiful in every street and 
alley. 

The "Golden Horn" is the harbor, a fine natural anchorage, 
which could be considered horn-shaped. Here we discharged 
cargo from England and Italy, and took in Turkish goods for 
England and America, including bags of coffee beans, and bales 
of tobacco. 

On some voyages, we then proceeded northwards through the 
Bosphorus Strait, and across the Black Sea, to the port of Kherson, 
in South Russia, to deliver English textiles or other manufac- 
tured goods, and to load bagged wheat. 

On leaving Kherson, we headed for home, calling on the way 
at Smyrna, Turkey's biggest port on the Asiatic side of the Aegean 
Sea, usually to load dried figs, and then went on to Alexandria, 
in Egypt, at the mouth of the Nile the City of Alexander the 
Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte and Lord Nelson. 
There we loaded cotton, cotton-seed, onions, and occasionally live 
quails, in crates. The quails were kept supplied with feed and 

248 



water, and delivered alive and prime at Liverpool for the Eng- 
lish market. 

Yes, there was plenty of variety and hard work on that cargo- 
run . . . 

After leaving Alexandria, we headed westwards along the shore 
of North Africa, with calls at Tunis, Algiers, and Oran and so 
to Gibraltar and Lisbon, with a final port of call at Leixos 
(Oporto), in Portugal, to load casks of wine. 

So home, and glad to be home with a full cargo and many 
memories to berth in Huskisson Dock in the Mersey, and never 
did gray old, drab old, stodgy old England seem a more decent, 
more sensible place than it seemed then to wanderers returned 
from a ten-weeks' work-cruise among the vivid, polyglot, excitable, 
and far too sophisticated people of dark-white and brown skins 
on the Mediterranean shores. 

Returned to Liverpool in March, 1909, after my first voyage in 
the Brescia, I heard details of their experiences from survivors of 
a maritime disaster in the North Atlantic which was the big nauti- 
cal news of that time, an incident of great historical interest in 
the development of sea-rescue work by the use of wireless. This 
was the loss of the Liverpool luxury liner, the White Star Repub- 
lic, a vessel of 15,000 tons, which was rammed in a fog by the Ital- 
ian S.S. Florida near Nantucket Light Vessel on January 23, 1909. 

The Republic, with 460 American tourists as passengers, was 
eastward bound from New York to the Mediterranean. She col- 
lided at 5:40 A.M. with the Florida, which was westward bound 
from Italy to New York with 830 emigrants mostly people evacu- 
ated from Messina after the earthquake and both ships were 
seriously damaged, but remained afloat. 

The wireless operator of the Republic, Jack Binns, sent out the 
C Q D distress call, which was the distress signal before SOS was 
adopted in 1912. The signal was picked up by the shore station 
at Siasconsett, Massachusetts, and relayed to all ships in the vicin- 
ity. One of these ships was the White Star Baltic, 24,000 tons, 
bound from Liverpool to New York. She was sixty-four miles from 

249 



the scene of the collision. In the thick fog it took her thirteen 
hours to locate the two damaged vessels. 

In the meantime, as the Republic was sinking slowly but surely, 
all her passengers and some of her crew were transferred by life- 
boats to the Florida, but her Captain, and a crew of forty-five, in- 
cluding Wireless Operator Binns remained on board. 

The Florida had no wireless, but Binns kept on sending mes- 
sages from the Republic with his reserve storage batteries, long 
after the ship's electric power system had failed. 

When at last the Baltic hove into sight, her Captain saw that 
the Florida was badly stove in, and in danger of foundering. All 
passengers from both ships, and some of the crews, to a total of 
1,650 souls, were transferred in lifeboats from the Florida to the 
Baltic, a remarkable midnight operation in the thick fog and bit- 
ter cold of January, with an ocean-swell running. 

As dawn came in, twenty-four hours after the collision, there 
was an inspiring sight. The fog lifted slightly, and it was seen 
that dozens of vessels of all kinds, big and small, were converging 
to the scene of the disaster, summoned by the magic call of wire- 
less. 

Nowadays, the nearest vessel to a sinking ship assumes respon- 
sibility for rescue operations, and others proceed on their courses, 
unless specially requested to stand by. But in 1909 every ship with 
radio range some of them 300 miles away had altered course 
and groped through the fog to take part in the rescue. The Repub- 
lic was taken in tow, but she sank, thirty-nine hours after the col- 
lision. Her Captain remained in her to the end, and was picked 
up from the water after she sank. The Florida, though her bows 
were stove in, remained afloat, and managed to make New York 
under her own power, escorted by naval and coastguard vessels. 

Jack Binns, who became known as "C Q D" Binns, was hailed 
as a hero on both sides of the Atlantic. He was a modest chap, and 
insisted that he had only done his duty. What made this incident 
so remarkable was its demonstration of the value of wireless, which, 
until then, had been regarded as a fad or a useless gadget. The 
double transfer of so many passengers, first from the Republic 
to the Florida, and then of both these vessels from the Florida to 

250 



the Baltic, without mishap, was a striking demonstration of life- 
boat efficiency. 

Responsibility for the collision was, as usual, a debatable point, 
but it was obvious that one or both of the liners had too much 
speed in the heavy fog in these busy waters offshore from New 
York. Many years would pass before radar and direction-finding 
gear would make navigation in fog safe. In the meantime this 
collision drew attention to the need for exact navigation on agreed 
tracks on the North Atlantic routes, and this led ultimately to 
the international agreements of 1913, which laid down the tracks 
for eastbound and westbound traffic on the various routes at differ- 
ent seasons of the year, especially during the iceberg season. 

Though many Cunarders have been lost by enemy action in war- 
time, very few have been wrecked in peacetime, 

In the earlier years of combined sail and steam, there were some 
wrecks, but these have no reference to present-day conditions. 
Since 1893, Cunard has had approximately one hundred steel- 
hulled screw steamers in service. Of these only two have been 
wrecked in peacetime the Carinthia (first of that name, 5,500 
tons) off Haiti in 1900, and the Slavonia (10,000 tons), on the 
Azores in 1909. 

That is a remarkable record of safety, over sixy-five years, multi- 
plied by the large number of voyages in a hundred vessels, giving 
the odds against wreck of perhaps 80,000 to one on any peacetime 
voyage. But, if the statistics are taken since the loss of the Slavonia 
in 1909, not one Cunarder has been wrecked in peacetime in fifty 
years! This increases the odds against wreck to mathematical in- 
finity, in normal peacetime navigation perhaps the proudest rec- 
ord that the Cunard Line holds, a result of the rigid training 
which impresses on all Cunard officers the priority that must be 
given to safety precautions. 

All the more remarkable then, and almost inexplicable, was the 
loss of the Slavonia in the Azores in 1909. This occurred while I 
was in the Brescia on the Mediterranean run, and was of special 
interest to me, as I knew several of the officers in the wrecked ship. 

The Slavonia was in the Cunard service carrying emigrants and 

251 



cargo from the Adriatic ports and Italy to New York. She was a 
relatively new vessel, launched in 1903. The track between Gibral- 
tar and New York passes twenty or more miles to the northward 
of the Azores. She was off her course to that extent, and, if her navi- 
gation or navigational instruments were not at fault, it is possible 
that the Captain or the officer of the watch intended to steer 
dose inshore for a "fix" on landmarks. Whatever the reason, she 
suddenly ran aground, in a strange manner, being caught in a deft 
between two submerged rocks so that, although helplessly 
wrecked, she could not sink. 

All her passengers and crew were saved, and much of her cargo 
and most of her fittings and gear were salvaged, but otherwise 
she was a loss. I do not remember the findings of the Board of 
Trade Inquiry, but I do remember that the general opinion 
among officers of the Cunard Line at the time was one of bewilder- 
ment that such a thing could have happened to one of "our" ships. 

Sea tragedies are so rare that they become big news for land 
folk when they do happen. But to the professional seafarer, 
these rare occurrences are only reminders of the need for more 
caution in daily routine. Whenever a wreck occurs, someone has 
been caught napping! That is the human factor, which operates 
in every human activity, and not only at sea. Normal happenings 
seldom "make news." 

After I had made four voyages to the Mediterranean with Cap- 
tain Arthur Rostron, he was transferred in December, 1909, to 
command of the Veria, another of the small Cunard cargo carriers 
in the Mediterranean trade. I remained in the Brescia, but, as she 
was laid up at Liverpool over Christmas, I had three weeks' leave. 

I had made application, on Captain Rostron's recommendation, 
for training in the Royal Naval Reserve, and it was necessary for 
me to go to London for an interview at the Admiralty. 

I took train from Liverpool, suddenly realizing that, though I 
had visited hundreds of ports in many countries, in all the con- 
tinents, and I had attained the age of twenty-six, I had never vis- 
ited London, the greatest of riverports and now I was bound 
there, not in a ship, but by the back door entrance in a train! 

252 



Arriving in that manner, it is difficult at first to realize that 
London is a seaport. The imposing and serene West End is not 
obviously dominated by the shipping -which gives the city its life. 
To find the ships in London you have to go looking for them in 
the drabber districts east of the city in the lower reaches and the 
great extent of the docks below Tower Bridge, where many West- 
Enders never venture. In no other great seaport in the world is 
there such a line of demarcation, concealing the source of the city's 
wealth from many of those who benefit most from it. 

West of Tower Bridge, London seems an inland city. East o 
that boundary, below the Pool of London, is the busy sea-gateway 
to the world. 

Could Kipling have thought of that when he observed that 
"East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet'? 

My interview with the Admiralty was satisfactory, and I re- 
ceived a Commission as Probationary Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal 
Naval Reserve, dated January 1, 1910. This meant that I would 
be called up for naval training at some convenient later date. 

While in London I stayed with my younger brother, Ormond 
Douglas Bisset, who was an apprentice clerk in the Moorgate of- 
fice of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company Limited, a big ship- 
ping company trading from Liverpool and London chiefly to 
South American and Central American ports, with important 
subsidiaries in mail services to Australia and cargo service to the 
Mediterranean. 

At my brother's suburban "diggings," I met some of his friends, 
including the girl who was to become my wife May. 

Perhaps May didn't realize it, or perhaps she did, but I knew 
that she was the girl for me. My leave ended all too soon, but I 
had made a little headway, and we agreed that we would write 
to one another. 

I now had an incentive, and I felt that my visit to London had 
been well worth while. 



253 



CHAPTER TWENTY 



Earning Promotion the Hard Way Captain 
Melsom > the "Silver King" Alik of Alexandria 
The Adventures of a Stowaway A Ride in the 
Black Maria The White Star Superliners 
"Olympic" and "Titanic" New Era of Giant 
Ships The "Mauretania" and the Blue Riband 
My Mediterranean Servitude "Charlie" Mor- 
rison My Promotion to Second Officer Called 
up for Training in the Royal Naval Reserve 
The Lure of London. 



THROUGHOUT the year 1910, 1 made four cargo voyages from 
Liverpool to Mediterranean ports in the S.S. Brescia, under com- 
mand of Captain George W. Melsom. He joined the ship at Swan- 
sea, where we were loading coal. He had not served in a cargo ves- 
sel since leaving sail many years previously. He came on board 
prepared for the worst, wearing a fisherman's rough woolen guern- 
sey and sea boots. 

He was delighted to find that his new command was spick and 
span and spotless except for her temporary smother of coal dust 
and that his officers were fully brassbound, in the best transatlan- 
tic liner fashion. 

254 



It did not take him long to change into his full rig, and there- 
after he was every inch a Captain in appearance as well as au- 
thority. As soon as we cleared the loading-dock, the Brescia's decks, 
as usual, were hosed and the paintwork was scrubbed, and she was 
as smart a cargo carrier as ever roamed the ocean highways. 

To keep her furbished was Captain Melsom's pride and joy. 
Every Captain has his whims and fads, Melsom had been First 
Mate in a windjammer, and had not lost his keenness to make his 
ship a thing of beauty and a joy to behold. He was a pernickety 
man, who could never see an officer or a seaman doing a job around 
the decks without interfering and suggesting a better method of 
doing it. He was within his rights, but a shipmaster's authority, 
being unquestioned, is better reserved for the more important 
matters requiring his attention than for supervising the details of 
a junior officer's or a boatswain's work. 

The ship's stores included a pot of aluminum paint, used for 
touching up handrails on companionways and various pieces of 
decorative metalwork. Captain Melsom kept this pot of paint and 
a brush in his cabin. On fine days at sea he would walk around the 
ship, pot and brush in hand, delicately touching up the aluminum 
paintwork himself. It was his harmless hobby, but it earned Hi 
the nickname of "the Silver King." Despite this little oddity, he 
was a pleasant man, a good seaman, and a very conscientious 
servant of the Company. 

On one of these voyages we had instructions to proceed from 
Fiume direct to Alexandria in Egypt, to load a full cargo of baled 
cotton, cottonseed, and onions. This required a stay of ten days 
in that port. Egypt was at that time a British protectorate. Alexan- 
dria was a British naval base and coaling station, and the site of 
the Khedive's Palace. It was a thriving city of half-a-million popu- 
lation, connected with Cairo by rail, and, being on the western 
side of the Nile Delta (100 miles to the westward of Port Said), with 
two thousand years of history as the main entry port of Egypt, had 
a teeming life of its own more so than it has nowadays, when 
Port Said has become the chief entry port. 

We berthed in the New Harbor, near the North Gate, site of 

255 



the world's oldest lighthouse, the "Phare" or "Pharach," 400 feet 
high, built as a beacon by the orders of Alexander the Great in the 
year 331 B.C., when he founded a glorious Greek city and the 
world's first university and a great library here. 

Gone was the grandeur of ancient Alexandria, but the modern 
attractions as they were in 1910 were lively and colorful. Shop- 
keepers, tourists, and entertainers of almost every nationality 
thronged the streets, and there were substantial British and French 
"colonies" of officials and merchants, besides the teeming Egyptian 
native population. 

The Brescia had been at Alexandria many times before. As soon 
as we berthed, a crowd of Arab stevedores swarmed on board, ac- 
companied by hawkers, fortune-tellers, conjurors, "guides" to the 
city's pleasures, and other nuisances, who greeted most of the crew 
as old friends. 

Among these was "Alik/' a remarkable man. The common herd 
wore long blue cotton gowns, and went barefoot. But Alik was a 
dandy. He wore baggy Turkish trousers, a well-cut coat of blue 
serge, a red fez with a tassel, highly polished elastic-sided boots, 
and carried a walking stick. He was an Egyptian with delicate fea- 
tures, soft brown eyes, and a dignified bearing. He spoke English 
with an Egyptian and a Scottish accent, the latter acquired from 
long association with ships' engineers. 

Alik was a self-appointed ship's messenger. He was ready at all 
times, for a small fee, to take clothes to the shore laundry, or to his 
home to be mended, to post letters, go shopping, deliver messages 
ashore or to other ships, or to do anything else consistent with 
his status as a gentleman of dignity who would not soil his hands 
with manual toil. As a messenger he was trustworthy. 

The loading of the cargo proceeded with loud yelling by the 
stevedores in Arabic, which created a daylong pandemonium. At 
last, on a glorious golden evening, after filling our bunkers with 
coal, we cast off our moorings and slipped out past the Phare into 
the Mediterranean, homeward bound for England, on a nonstop 
run, our cargo-holds filled to the deckheads and all hatches bat- 
tened down. 

At 8 P.M., I took over the bridge to keep my usual watch till 

256 



midnight. At 9:30 P.M., the Captain came on the bridge, and 
after cocking an eye on the weather, wrote out his night order 
book, and retired to bed, remarking, "I'm damned glad to be away 
from those howling dervishes" his pet name for the Arab steve- 
dores. 

It was a soft and balmy night, with no moon, and innumerable 
stars powdering the cloudless sky from horizon to horizon over 
the "wine-dark sea" as Homer described it. That description has 
puzzled scholars. Perhaps Homer, when he was going blind, or 
partly blind, saw both sea and wine as "dark" or was he re- 
ferring, not to the day-blue of the Aegean Sea, but to its night- 
purple tinge? 

Being left to myself, I paced up and down the narrow bridge, 
glad to be at sea again, away from the sights, sounds, and smells 
of Alexandria, and pausing every now and then to peer into the 
compass to verify the course which the helmsman was steering. 

At 11:30 P.M., when seven bells had just been struck, I had 
reached the port wing of the bridge and turned around, when in 
the velvety darkness I dimly saw a figure at the top of the bridge 
ladder. I took a couple of paces in that direction, and saw with 
astonishment that the figure had a fez on its head. The thought 
flashed into my mind, "Barbary pirates trying to capture the 
shipl" 

I had been reading an adventure story on that theme. But the 
helmsman sang out, "Hey, Mister, 'ere's a Harab!" The shadowy 
figure was now slumped on the deck of the bridge in the darkness, 
wailing, "Please, Mister, this is Alik! I fall asleep in the coal 
bunker. I not wake up. You my good friend. Let me go on shore. 
My wife and children they die, if I no come home!" 

"Stowaway, eh?" I growled, and dragged him none too gently 
into the wheelhouse to look at him by the light of the compass 
the only light on the bridge. Sure enough it was Alik, but very 
dirty and bedraggled, sniveling and cringing, and entirely lacking 
in his usual dignity. 

"Me no stowaway," he wailed. "Me only sleep too long!" 

The fact that he was dressed in old clothes proved that he was 
a liar. He was not the man ever to go near a coal bunker. He 

257 



wanted a free passage to England. The ship's officers would be 
blamed by the owners for not having searched the ship thoroughly 
before leaving port. I was in no mood to give Alik any sympathy. 
I pushed him out to the port wing of the bridge. "Stay there/' I 
said, "and keep your mouth shut, or 111 " 

I nearly said " throw you overboard!" but curbed the words, 
and growled, " knock your block off!" 

Singing out for the spare hand of the watch, I sent him forward 
to rouse out the boatswain, an old Cape Horn sailor, who came 
along five minutes later in no happy frame of mind at being rooted 
out of a sound sleep. "Here you are, boatswain," said I, "Here's an 
Arab stowaway for you. Lock him up until the morning, when the 
Captain will deal with him." 

"Aye, aye, sir!" the boatswain growled, grabbing Alik by the 
scruff of the neck and bustling him roughly down the ladder. 

"You know me. This is Alik. You my good friend," I heard Alik 
protesting loudly. 

"You got me called out in the middle of the night, you heathen. 
Get in there!" roared the boatswain. After a very short scuffle, I 
heard the iron door of the carpenter's shop slammed to. 

Next morning, Alik was brought before the Captain, who gave 
him a severe talking-to, and told him that he would have to be 
taken on to Liverpool, to be dealt with by the owners. A berth was 
allotted to him in the forecastle with the seamen, and he was given 
meals and clean clothes. Presently we discovered that his dandy 
dothes were tied up in a bundle hidden with his walking stick in 
one of the lifeboats, ready to wear when he arrived in England 
full proof that his scheme to stow away had been carefully planned. 

Alik quickly recovered his jaunty air. For the eleven days of our 
homeward passage, he was virtually a passenger. The Captain gave 
orders that he was not to be allowed to do any work. We had the 
idea that if a stowaway was compelled to work, he could not be 
prosecuted. That may have been true in those days, or at least a 
magistrate would take it into account in the stowaway's favor if he 
had worked his passage. 

The Captain was determined to prosecute Alik, to make an 
example of him that would deter others. This was a matter of 

258 



principle, but we began to feel sorry for Alik, who explained that 
his ambition was to get a job in a big London hotel, selling ciga- 
rettes. He thought that when we arrived in Liverpool he would be 
able to walk serenely ashore. 

But the Captain thought otherwise. It was a cold, blustering 
night in March when we joined the stream of traffic in the Irish 
Sea, making for the Mersey. At midnight we were abeam of South 
Stack Lighthouse, where there is also a Lloyd's Signal Station. Hav- 
ing no radio, we signaled with flags in the daytime and a Morse 
lamp at night. The Captain came onto the bridge and dictated a 
message to me which I transmitted with the Morse lamp: "S.S. 
Brescia bound for Liverpool. Please inform owners I have a stow- 
away on board." 

This was duly acknowledged by the station. We rounded the 
Skerries into Lynus Bay and picked up the pilot. In the early hours 
of the morning we passed the Bar Light Vessel, and at 5:30 A.M. 
nosed up against the river wall and slid into the Canada Lock at 
the top of high water. 

The growing daylight revealed Alik standing on deck all ready 
to go ashore. He had shaved, spruced himself up, and put on his 
number one togs baggy trousers, serge jacket, a brand new fez, 
polished elastic-sided boots and carried his walking stick, just as 
we had known him in his old home town. But in the gray and cold 
dawn at Liverpool he looked sadly out of place. 

As we put out our gangplank, two burly policemen walked on 
board. At a nod from the Chief Officer, they grabbed Alik, and 
said, "Come along with usl" 

The police asked that an officer of the ship should go with them 
to the police station to lay the charge. I was told off for the job, 
and given the ship's logbook to produce as evidence. Standing near 
the wharf was a four-wheeled vehicle drawn by two sturdy horses 
the "Black Maria," also known locally as the Hurry-up Wagon. A 
third policeman was in the driver's seat. The wagon was only a 
strong wooden box on iron-shod wheels. Inside it had a wooden 
bench on each side, and there were two small windows with iron 
bars. 

Alik with the two arresting constables and myself took our seats 

259 



on the benches, and the back door of the box was closed. This was 
my first, and as yet my only ride in a Black Maria. We set off 
at a rattling pace over the cobbles, the driver apparently deter- 
mined to beat his own record to the Dale Street Police Station, 
three miles away. The chief use of the Liverpool Black Maria was 
for transporting drunken rowdies to the lockup. It smelt as if it had 
been frequently and recently used for that purpose. Alik was 
lamenting loudly, "Me no stowaway! Me honest man!" then add- 
ing in his curious Scotch accent, "Oh, my poor wee wifie and 
bairns!" 

The jolting of the wagon, and the stench, nearly made me land- 
sick. When we arrived at the Police Station, the prisoner was in 
a state of collapse, his swarthy face blanched with fear and indigna- 
tion, but he was hustled inside, where the officer on duty, after ask- 
ing me some formal questions, entered the charge against him in 
the charge book. 

Then Alik was taken below to the cells, and I was told that my 
evidence would be required at the Police Court at 1 1 A.M. This 
gave me time to go to my parents' home for breakfast, with a lively 
tale to tell of my latest adventures on land, in the Black Maria. 

This being my first experience of a Police Court, I arrived early, 
and sat in the body of the court while several sordid cases were 
quickly dealt with. At eleven o'clock, the usher called out loudly, 
"Ali ben Mahomet!" and, from the cells below, Alik emerged, full 
of self-assurance and now very smart with his vivid red fez making 
a splash of color in the dingy courtroom. He was brought in by two 
constables and placed in the dock. 

According to Moslem etiquette, a fez is not removed in a court 
of law, or indoors in the presence of strangers. 

"Take your hat off," said the Clerk of the Court. 

Alik looked at him pityingly. 

"TAKE YOUR HAT OFF!" 

As Alik made no move to obey, a policeman's hand, the size of 
a shovel, swept off his fez with a mighty swipe, and it soared 
through the air to fall into the center of the room. 

At this indignity, Alik's hair bristled with rage, and he began to 

260 



splutter strange words, until the two constables, one on each side 
of him, gripping his arms, succeeded in quietening him. 

The charge was read, and I was asked to step into the witness 
box. I took the oath by kissing a very grubby looking Bible, The 
ship's logbook was handed to me for identification, and I read 
aloud the extracts stating the date and time of sailing, and the 
circumstances in which the stowaway had given himself up. The 
police prosecutor and the magistrate asked me questions. 
"How was the stowaway treated during the voyage?" 
"He was berthed and fed the same as any member of the crew." 
"Did you make him work?" 

"No, he just strolled about like a passenger, and watched us 
work." (Laughter in Court.) "Sometimes he was seasick." (More 
laughter in Court.) 

Then Alik was asked if he had anything to say. He had decided 
that eloquence was necessary, "I very good man," he began. "Very 
honest. Everybody knows me. I go on ship and fall asleep. I wake 
up in the night. I see only the sea. I think, my poor wifie and bairns 
will starve. I ask the Mister Officer, please put me ashore. The 
Mister he says, I will knock your bloody block off. I say, I dinna 
ken the ship will go to England. They lock me up. They treat me 
bad. The Captain he says, You Howling Dervish dog, I make you 
work. They give me no food. I canna live wi'oot food. They make 
me eat pork. I Moslem canna eat pig. I sick. I pray Allah let me go 
on shore. The ship she jump. I work all day and all night. The 
policeman hurt my arm. I very good man. Everybody knows Alik 
of Alexandria. I post letters." 

"Were you ever in England before?" asked the Magistrate. 
"No, never 1" 

The Police Prosecutor now produced documentary evidence 
that the identical Ali ben Mahomet had been convicted as a stow- 
away in that same court at Liverpool five years previously, and 
had been sentenced to fourteen days imprisonment, and then de- 
ported. 

"I forgot about that," said Alik. "That was a mistake. I no stow- 
away. I work my passage." 
"Have you anything more to say?" asked the magistrate. 

261 



"I good man " Alik began. 

But they had heard that already. "One month's hard labor/' 
said the magistrate. "After that you will be deported." 

Someone tossed the fez up to tie dock, where it was deftly 
caught by one of the constables, who jammed it on Alik's head, 
slewed him around, and hustled him below, to be taken to Wal- 
ton Jail. They have a quick way with stowaways at Liverpool, and 
no nonsense. 

The Brescia cleared out again for the Mediterranean after a fort- 
night. Alik was repatriated in the next Cunard cargo steamer, but 
was never again allowed on board Cunard ships. Six months later, 
when we were mooring at our usual berth at Alexandria, I saw the 
familiar figure coming along the quay the same old immaculate 
Alik, jauntily swinging his walking stick. He made no attempt to 
come on board, but, recognizing me, he cupped his hands and 
shouted, "Mister! Mister! Walton Jail a very good place!" 

He continued his stroll along the quay, with the air of a man 
engrossed in affairs of importance, the perfect gentleman, who had 
mastered the art of living on his wits. 

After I had made seven or eight Mediterranean cargo cruises, 
each of three months' duration, the novelty had worn off, and I was 
hoping that my turn would soon come to be rostered for duty again 
in one of the big passenger liners; but promotion in the Cunard 
service never came quickly or easily. Every officer had to earn it the 
hard way, in the years of experience in the Company's small as well 
as big vessels, and patience was a necessity. 

During the year 1910, when we returned to Liverpool after each 
voyage, the main topic of discussion among shipping people there 
was the building of the gigantic White Star liner, Olympic, then in 
progress at Harland and Wolff's shipyards in Belfast. She and her 
intended sister ship, Titanic, designed for the transatlantic mail- 
and-passenger service, each of 46,000 tons, would be by far the 
biggest ships in the world, easily surpassing in size the two Cunard 
giants, Mauretania and Lizsitania, which were of only 32,000 tons. 

The two big Cunarders, launched in 1907, had ushered in the 
modern era of the gigantic "super-liners." When they were 

262 



launched it was thought unlikely that any bigger vessels would ever 
be built; but their success was a challenge which was taken up 
almost immediately by the American-controlled combine, the In- 
ternational Mercantile Marine, which owned the White Star Line. 
The keel of the Olympic was laid in December, 1908. She was 882 
feet in length over-all (100 feet longer than the Mauritania) and 
92 feet beam. Harland and Wolff's shipyard had to be enlarged to 
accommodate her. The biggest vessels built there previously had 
been the Adriatic (24,541 tons), launched in 1907, and the Baltic 
(23,876 tons), launched in 1904 these two having provided the 
challenge which Cunard had answered with the Mauretania and 
Lusitania. 

Now the two new giant White Star liners would wrest supremacy 
in size from Cunard and all other competitors. The Olympic was 
launched at Belfast on October 20, 1910, and lay there for eight 
months being fitted out. She had four funnels, and triple screws, a 
straight stem, raised forecastle and poop, and a very long midships 
superstructure. She was claimed to be unsinkable, as she had fifteen 
watertight bulkheads, the doors of which could be dosed by electric 
control from the bridge. Her passenger accommodation was luxuri- 
ous on a scale never previously attempted. She was the first liner to 
have a swimming pooL Her dining saloon, 1 14 feet long, could seat 
532 persons. 

As soon as the Olympic was launched, the keel of her sister ship 
Titanic was laid down. Work began on the second vessel immedi- 
ately, from the same plans, with only minor modifications. A third 
giant sister was to follow (the Britannic). 

In the meantime Cunard also had two new liners on the stocks, 
on the Tyne, but these were only medium size, 18,000 tons the 
Franconia and the Laconia (the first ships bearing those names, 
which, after both these ships had been sunk by enemy action dur- 
ing the First World War, were applied in the twenties to two new 
and slightly larger ships). 

The White Star Line had also launched in 1909 two medium- 
sized ships, the Laurentic and Megantic, of 14,000 tons. The Ham- 
burg-Amerika Line in that year had launched two fine steamers, 
the Cleveland and the Cincinnati, each of 16,000 tons. Norddeu- 

263 



tscher Lloyd in 1908 had put into service the Prinz Frederick 
helm and the Berlin, each of 17,000 tons, and in 1909 the George 
Washington, 25,000 tons the first of the "big" German liners. 

The competition on the transatlantic route had therefore be- 
come keener than ever before, with no less than nine fine new 
ships brought into service in two years, and all the rival companies 
striving to be excellent. But imagination boggled at the magnitude 
and magnificence of the two White Star superliners of 46,000 tons. 
Wiseheads predicted difficulties in docking and undocking "Too 
big to handle!" 

Too big! What could be the limit of a ship's size? A dazzling new 
era was dawning. "Progress is inevitable. We must keep up with 
our competitors!" 

The Olympic was fourteen times greater in tonnage than the 
Brescia in which I was plodding along: that is, she had a tonnage 
equal to a fleet of fourteen average cargo steamers. She was a whole 
fleet in one hull. It seemed fantastic to me, as to many others who 
had begun their sea careers in sailing vessels of 1,000 tons . . . 

I heard two old salts arguing in a Liverpool pub: 

"She'll be a floating palace." 

"Floating boarding-house, you mean. Not like going to sea at 
all!" 

"But think of all the work and wages a thousand men working 
for two years building her." 

"That's in Belfast, not here. A waste of money." 

"And think of all the work for her people. She'll carry a crew 
of a thousand seamen, firemen, trimmers, stewards." 

"They'd be better on shore. She's so big, she'll bump into sum- 
mat." 

"She's unsinkable." 

"My eye and Betty Martin! No ship's unsinkable." 

"She's a credit to Old England." 

"Ireland, you mean? And she's no damn good to Liverpool. She'll 
be sailing out o' Southampton." 

So the arguments continued, but there was no doubt that I.M.M. 
and White Star had struck a mighty blow for prestige and profits. 
Cunard and the Germans would need to look to their laurels . . , 

264 



If a distinction is to be drawn between liners and mammoth lin- 
ers, the launching of the Olympic in October, 1910, and her maiden 
voyage in June, 1911, were the crucial steps forward into the era 
of gigantic shipbuilding. But the Mauretania and Lusitania had 
inaugurated that era. 

The Olympic did not succeed in taking the Blue Riband for 
speed from the Mauretania. On her maiden voyage she attained an 
average speed of 2L17 knots, but the Mauretania held the Blue 
Riband in 1909 with a speed of 25.89 knots, and in 1910 with 26.06 
knots, setting a record which stood for twenty years thereafter. 

That was the feather that remained in Cunard's cap. 

In December, 1910, Captain Melsom was transferred from the 
Brescia and given command of a passenger liner. His successor in 
command of the Brescia was Captain "Charlie" Morrison, an el- 
derly man who had missed high promotion in the Company's serv- 
ice, and was content to work out his time in cargo vessels, in the 
few years before his retirement. 

I made two voyages to the Mediterranean with Captain Morri- 
son. He was regarded with affection by all who served under him, 
for he was a fine old gentleman and a good shipmaster who neg- 
lected no detail of importance, but delegated responsibility to his 
officers, without carping criticism, in everything that came prop- 
erly within their scope. 

When he came onto the bridge, he was obliged to rely rather 
heavily on the officer of the watch for observations, as he suffered 
from cataract, and had almost lost the sight of one eye. A weakness 
of eyesight is a pathetic defect in a shipmaster, and was more so 
in those days than nowadays, when optical treatment and eyeglasses 
are of much higher quality than they were then. A Captain in those 
days, even if he were aging and really needed glasses, would seldom, 
if ever, wear them on the bridge. Some shipmasters and officers, 
even today, feel that eyeglasses are not in keeping with the best 
nautical traditions, and will not wear them. 

But eyesight is not everything, as Lord Nelson showed at the 
Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, when he put his telescope to his 



265 



blind eye to read Admiral Parker's signal to cease action, remark- 
ing, "I'm damned if I see it!" 

If Nelson, with only one eye, could win glorious battles, Cap- 
tain Charlie Morrison could certainly carry on without undue dif- 
ficulty in command of the 5.5. Brescia. He did this by leaving most 
of the routine work to his officers, and guiding us sufficiently with 
his authority, knowledge, experience, and sea instinct, in anything 
that required his decision. 

His harmless life hobby was breeding canary birds. In his cabin 
he had several cages of them, some of the larger cages being fitted 
out to hold a dozen or more birds, with proper facilities for nest- 
ing and breeding. In consequence his cabin was a twitter of singing 
and whistling from dawn till dusk. It was an aviary, and not only 
sounded, but smelled like one. Birdseed and bird-droppings were 
scattered on the deck; but "Charlie" was used to that, and, as he 
called each bird by a pet name, he was never lonely, and in conse- 
quence never grumpy or disagreeable. 

I have never served under a more pleasant shipmaster than 
"Charlie" Morrison. His cataracts and his canaries in no way im- 
paired his efficiency in command. He exerted his authority quietly, 
effectively and tolerantly. 

In May, 1911, after having made ten voyages to the Mediter- 
ranean in the Brescia in twenty-nine months, I was transferred 
from her to the 5.5. Phrygia> and promoted to Second Officer: a 
rise which I felt that I had worked to earn. This promotion, en- 
titling me to two gold stripes on the sleeve and an extra pound a 
month in pay, came to me at the age of twenty-eight years, after 
thirteen years at sea, including four years in the Cunard service. 
I had gained experience, the hard way, but I did feel that, as Second 
Officer in a cargo steamer, I was soaring high in the nautical firm- 
ament. I had a long and stiff climb ahead, and I knew it. Cunard 
Captains are not born with four stripes on their sleeve. They have 
to earn them. 

The 5.5. Phrygia, 3,352 tons, built at Middlesborough in 1900, 
and then named the Oro, had been purchased by Cunard in 1909, 
and renamed. She was a dull and slow ship, with a speed of only 
eight knots. She was in the same Mediterranean trade as the 

266 



Brescia. She was in command of Captain R. Capper, an efficient 
shipmaster, who, being a martyr to indigestion, was inclined to be 
querulous and impatient. 

In these circumstances, the two voyages that I made in her as 
Second Officer, from May to November, 1911, were anything but 
pleasant, the more so as, having then completed three years on the 
Mediterranean cargo service, I was finding its scenes now too famil- 
iar and becoming monotonous. 

Many years later (about 1921), I met Captain Capper again, and 
found him mellowed then by the years, affable, kindly and cured 
of his indigestionl 

How he was cured may contain a medical moral, if it were scien- 
tifically investigated. He told me the secret During the First World 
War he was Master of a Cunard cargo steamer that was torpedoed 
and sunk by an enemy submarine in mid-Atlantic. He was fourteen 
days afloat in an open lifeboat, with practically nothing to eat 
except meager rations of biscuits, condensed milk, and water. He 
got his boat safely to land, and was decorated for his efforts. "But,'* 
he explained, "the enforced semistarvation cured my indigestion. 
There's a saying that more graves are dug with teeth than with 
shovels and there may be some truth in thatl" 

When the Phrygia returned to Liverpool, on November 18, 1911, 
at the end of my twelfth Mediterranean cargo voyage, I was over- 
joyed to be informed by the Marine Superintendent that I could 
leave her, as I was required by my Lords of the Admiralty to pro- 
ceed to Chatham Naval Station, at the mouth of the Thames, to 
join HM .S. Hogue, on December 2, as a Probationary Sub-Lieu- 
tenant, for one month's training in the Royal Naval Reserve. 

For this purpose the Cunard Company gave me seven weeks* 
leave. The Company encouraged its officers to be in the R.N.R., 
and had to comply with Admiralty appointments. I had received 
my commission as Probationary Sub-Lieutenant, R.NJL, nearly 
two years previously, on January 1, 1910* 

Being green in the ways of the Navy, I was somewhat nervous of 
presenting myself for duty in a cruiser, but there were many Cun- 
ard officers who had been through the mill, and I was soon given 

267 



the necessary advice. The first thing was to get rid of my dear old 
wooden sea chest (with a picture of the County of Pembroke 
barque inside the lid), which had voyaged with me for thirteen 
years, and to invest in a regulation black tin uniform case and a 
leather suitcase. 

Into these went my uniforms, now fitted out with R.N.R. but- 
tons, and one R.N.R. gold stripe, and an R.N.R. badge cap, plus 
the usual shirts, underwear, and accessories. 

Thus provided, I wasted no further time, and took train to Lon- 
don, to stay with my brother again for a week, before I was due to 
go downriver to Chatham. 

I found my pal May as lively and lovely as before more so, for 
absence had made our hearts grow a little fonder, and she didn't 
view a sailor's roving life with too much hostility. So, in the very 
little time then available, our friendship grew into a little more 
than friendship, and I began to have serious hopes. 

Then the call of duty came, and it was time to leave her. 



268 



CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE 



The Royal Naval Reserve H. MS. "Hogue" _ 
Captain Keighley Peach, R.N. Manners and 
Customs of the Navy My Friend Percy Hefford 
An III Omen Atlantic Liners of 1912 
Launch of the "Titanic" Building of the "Aqui- 
tania" Bishop Chavasse Confirms Me I Join 
the S.S. "Carpathia" as Second Officer The 
Black Hand I See the "Olympic" in New York 
The Maiden Voyage of the "Titanic" The 
"Unsinkable" Ship. 



BEING required to present myself on board His Majesty's Ship 
Hogue at 11 A.M. on December 2, 1911, I traveled from London 
to Chatham, a distance of some thirty miles, by train, via Wool- 
wich, Dar tf ord, and Gravesend, skirting the right bank of the lower 
reaches of the Thames. 

I was in a first-class compartment on a Government pass with 
one another man, who, like myself, was wearing civilian clothes. 
We got into conversation. He was a ship's officer of the White Star 
Line, older than I. He explained that he had done several training 
courses in the Royal Naval Reserve, and was now a Lieutenant- 
Commander, R.N.R., called up to Chatham for a Senior Officers' 

269 



technical training course. When we were nearing our destination 
he said, "Excuse me, I am going to change," and with that opened 
his suitcase and donned a uniform frock coat, buckled on his sword 
and belt, and, with his cap at a rakish angle, was transformed in a 
jiffy into a complete specimen of a smart R.N.R. officer. 

I expressed alarm, thinking that I should have arranged to do 
the same, but my uniform was in its tin case in the luggage van at 
the rear of the train. "Don't worry," he assured me. "Only seasoned 
officers report on board in uniform! Probationary officers are not 
expected to be dressed. You'll be all right as you are." 

When the train pulled in, an old porter, detecting that I was a 
greenhorn, asked me, "What ship are you joining, sir?" 

"Hogue" I told him. 

"Just in time to catch the picket-boat!" he said, and, grabbing 
my tin box and suitcase, trundled them down to the pier. Sure 
enough, there was the picket-boat, a steam pinnace which was cast- 
ing off as I sprang aboard. 

At first glance, I thought that the porter must have made a mis- 
take. The pinnace, though flying the naval ensign and manned by 
naval ratings and a Petty Officer in uniform, was crowded with 
youngish men in tweeds, flannel trousers, and sweaters, some hat- 
less, some with soft hats and caps, and all spattered in mud and 
earth. They looked ruddy, healthy, and self-assured, and presently 
I realized that they were junior officers of the Royal Navy who had 
been ashore for an early morning run with the beagles a pack of 
small hounds used for hare hunting when the field follows on foot. 
I was glad not to be in uniform among such a scruffy lot. 

Dozens of warships, big and small, lay at moorings in the harbor. 
The picket-boat made the round of the ships, discharging the 
muddy beaglers here and there, and eventually ranged alongside 
HM .S. Hogue, moored off Sheerness. She was an old-fashioned 
cruiser, of 7,840 tons and a speed of nineteen or twenty knots, built 
by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness, and completed in 1902. Her arma- 
ment consisted of two 9.2-inch guns (one forward and one aft), 
twelve 6-inch guns, twelve 12-pounders, three 3-pounders, and two 
submerged 18-inch torpedo tubes. She had a straight stem, four 
vertical funnels set dose together amidships, and two tall steel 

270 




White Star liner S.S. Olympic, launched 1910. 




__ . 

Topical Photo Agency 

White Star liner 5.5. Titanic, leaving Belfast on her trials, April Fools' Day, 

1912. 




Second Officer in S.S. 

Carpathia, 1912. Note 

my 3-inch starched 

choker collar. 




Officers in 5.5. Carpathia, 1912. 



masts. She was now almost obsolete, and was one of the reserve 
fleet. 

I was the only one from the picket-boat for the Hogue. Getting 
on board, I was greeted by a pleasant young officer of the watch. 
This was the first time that I had ever been in a King's Ship, Every- 
thing looked bare and ugly. She had no midships superstructure, 
no wooden panels or rails or planked decking. She was grim, gray, 
and metallic. Her decks were almost deserted. Only half-a-dozen 
men were in sight. She did not have steam up. She was moored to 
a buoy, inert, but spotlessly shipshape. 

The officer o the watch took me to the Commander's quarters. 
There, I met Captain C. W. Keighley Peach, R.N., who welcomed 
me affably. He was a big, florid man, who looked more like a 
farmer than a sailor. He was nearing the retiring age, but despite 
his rustic appearance he was a good seaman, who had served his 
time in the old "wooden walls" under sail in the days before iron- 
clads and "dreadnoughts" set the modern fashion of armored naval 
might. 

Having my papers, Captain Peach knew that I had been in sail. 
This was a prime qualification, in his opinion. He asked me 
detailed questions on my experiences in sailing vessels, and quickly 
put me at ease by his obvious pleasure at recollections of the 
bygone days. Then he said, with a sigh of regret, "Well, now it's 
all steel and machinery, more's the pity!" 

To my disappointment he informed me that the Hogue would 
not be putting to sea. She had only a nucleus crew, and I would be 
the only probationary R.N.R. officer on board. 

"You've joined at an awkward time," he said. "You will not get 
very much training. There will not be any regular course of in- 
struction. If they had sent me a class of a dozen or more, it would 
have been worthwhile putting a Petty Officer in charge of you for 
gun drill and other training courses, but, as things are, all you can 
do is to get around, and keep your eyes peeled, and make yourself 
familiar with the routine of a warship, and you'll get through your 
probationary month without any trouble. To make matters worse/' 
he added, "Christmas leave is starting soon, and out of your month 
on board you will have to take a week r s vacation on shore!" 

271 



With that he dismissed me, telling me to ask the officer of the 
watch to show me my quarters. I thought that life in the Navy 
promised to be pretty good. I had a small cabin to myself, like a 
steel box. I spent most of my time merely wandering around the 
ship, picking up what I could of the manners and customs of the 
Navy, drinking gins and bitters and swapping yarns at the proper 
times, and going ashore for a stroll in the afternoons or evenings. 
Then at Christmastime I had a week's leave in London, which 
suited me very well, as May was there and we were young and free 
of care. 

On December 26, my leave expired, and I returned on board 
HM.S. Hague in uniform this time. My month's probation 
ended on January 2, 1912, 1 was called to Captain Keighley Peach's 
quarters for an interview which quickly developed into an affable 
yarn about sailing ships. Then, as an afterthought, he said, "I'll 
declare you to be a fit and proper person to hold a Commission in 
the R.N.R." 

So ended my probationary training. On leaving the Hogue, I 
spent a few more very happy days in London, and then returned to 
Liverpool and the Cunard service. My appointment as a Sub- 
Lieutenant in the R.N.R. was officially confirmed by a notice from 
the Admiralty on January 25, 1912. 

The Marine Superintendent informed me that I was posted for 
"general relieving duties" in the port of Liverpool for one month, 
while the S.S. Carpathia was being refitted, and that I would then 
join her early in February as Second Officer. 

This was another lucky break. I could live at home with my 
parents, reporting daily to the Marine Superintendent for whatever 
handy work was required, relieving officers in Cunard ships in port 
while they went on shore with short leave. 

At this time I renewed acquaintance with Percy Hefford, who 
had been shipmates with me in the old 5.S. Nether Holme six years 
previously. He had passed for Master and Extra Master, and was 
now Third Officer in one of the Cunarders on the transatlantic run. 
When his ship was in port, he stayed at our home. His ambition, 
like mine, was to be appointed to the Mauretania or the Lusitania. 

272 



One evening when we were talking of this, the framed picture of 
the Lusitania, hanging on the wall of our sitting-room, where we 
were yarning and joking, suddenly fell to the floor with a crash of 
broken glass! It had been hanging there for five years, and the sup- 
porting wire had rusted through. We were both young enough to 
be a little shaken by the superstition that a falling picture presages 
death, but we passed it off with a jest, as there was no reason to 
suppose that the Lusitania was ill-fated. 

At this time the Cunard Atlantic Mail services from Liverpool 
to New York were being maintained by the Mauretania, the Lusi- 
tania, the Caronia, the Carmania, and the Campania, together with 
the two new 18,000-ton liners, the Franconia and the Laconia. 

To meet the challenge of the White Star superliners, the 
Olympic, the Titanic, and the Britannic, Cunard had placed an 
order with Brown's shipyards at Clydebank for a 45,000-ton liner, 
the Aquitania, the keel of which was laid in 191 1. She was intended 
to work with the Mauretania and the Lusitania to maintain the 
regular weekend departure schedules from both sides of the 
Atlantic. Liverpool was still the Cunard terminal port and home 
port, but the White Star services were now based on Southampton, 
and calling at Cherbourg. 

The Olympic had been in service since June, 1911, and had 
proved a great attraction to passengers by her undisputed status 
as the biggest ship in the world. But she had a setback on Septem- 
ber 20, when, after being only three months in service, she collided 
with a British cruiser, HM.S. Hawke, which tore a hole forty feet 
long in her side, above the waterline. This necessitated docking for 
repairs, and the incident gave some support to pessimists who in- 
sisted that she was "too big to handle." 

The Titanic had been launched at Belfast on May 31, 1911, and 
was being fitted out much more elaborately than the Olympic. She 
was described in newspaper reports as "the Wonder Ship," and 
"the Last Word in Luxury." Advance publicity acclaimed her 
as "the Unsinkable Ship" and as "the Biggest Ship in the World." 
In fact she was of the same design and dimensions as the Olympic, 
and in the final computations of gross tonnage the Olympic was 

273 



Ill tons heavier: the Olympic 46,439 gross tons, the Titanic 46,328 
gross tons. 

Yet the Titanic was indeed a Titan imaginatively named from 
that race of giants in Greek mythology, of planetary dimensions, 
the Sons of the Earth and the Brothers of Time. The very name 
of this gigantic new ship had a fascination. It was a masterstroke 
of nomenclature and a challenge to fate. She was scheduled to go 
into service in April, 1912. No ship so stupendous in luxurious 
appointments had ever been built, or ever would be built. She 
would be the superb, the supreme liner. Her name, like that of 
HM.S. Dreadnought, was an inspiration expressing the confidence 
of a seafaring folk at the zenith of power and glory. 

I hoped that I would see her some day, in her pride, but I had 
no premonition of what I was destined to see ... 

During this period on shore, I realized that, at the age of 
twenty-nine, I had never been confirmed as a communicant of 
the Church of England. I had been duly baptized in my infancy, 
but, having gone to sea at the age of fifteen, I had missed the op- 
portunity which comes to most youths to attend confirmation 
classes in order to qualify as a full member of the Church. 

I discussed the problem with the Reverend E. V. Savage, Chap- 
lain at the Mersey Seamen's Mission, in Hanover Street, Liver- 
pool. He gave me the necessary instruction in the Shorter Cate- 
chism, and presented me on February 7, 1912, as a candidate for 
confirmation by the Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend 
Francis James Chavasse, a saintly and gentle man who was much 
beloved by the Merseysiders who were in his pastoral care. As 
I was due to go to sea again in a few days, the Bishop accepted 
me into his flock by confirming me in the chapel at his palace in 
Abercromby Square. He gave me my first communion and also a 
prayer book, which remained with me throughout the years, at 
times when I needed it. 

Three days later, on February 10, 1912, I joined the S.S. Car- 
pathia at Liverpool, as Second Officer. After being refitted, she 
was returning to her previous service transporting emigrants and 

274 



cargo from the Adriatic and Italian ports to New York, making on 
ail average seven voyages a year, in rotation with the Pannonia, 
the Ultonia, the Slavonia, and the Saxonia. 

inS 1 ?!* been , ln ** SerVice M Fourth Officer in &e Wtonfe in 
1908, 1 knew what to expect, as far as the routine work was con- 
cerned; but, fortunately perhaps, we never know with certainty 
what IS ahead of us, as time unrolls to reveal the inteiruptions 
that, pleasantly or unpleasantly, may shatter all our humdrum 
anticipations. 

My chief regret was that I would be away from England for a 
year. As a rule the ships in the Adriatic service were recalled to 
Liverpool, in rotation, after twelve months, for mechanical over- 
haul, stocktaking, and replacements and repairs of furniture and 
fittings, and annual holiday leave for the crews. This was the only 
Cunard service at that time not working directly from Liverpool 
on outward and homeward voyages from and returning to that 
home port at frequent intervals; but, from the administrative 
point of view, the Adriatic service was ultimately based on Liver- 
pool, with yearlong voyages, consisting of fourteen Atlantic cross- 
ings (seven round trips) between Trieste and New York to be ac- 
complished before each ship returned to the home port at Liver- 
pool to refit and pay-off. 

Though disappointed at the prospect of such a long absence 
from England, I was pleased at being again in a passenger liner. 
The S.S. Carpathia^ launched on the Tyne in 1903, was a twin- 
screw steamer of 13,603 tons, with a straight stem, a tall single 
funnel, and four steel masts. She had a speed of fourteen knots. 
She was specially designed for the Adriatic migrant service, and, 
with this in view, she originally had accommodation for 1,600 
third-class passengers, 200 second-class; and no first-dass. 

In this way she was the forerunner of the modern "tourist-class" 
liners. She was in no sense a "luxury liner," but she was a comforta- 
ble and friendly ship. When I joined her, she was in the ninth 
year of her service, and well settled in to her steady work. She 
had a crew of approximately 300. Her Master was Captain Arthur 
Rostron that highly efficient seaman, known in the Cunard serv- 
ice as "the Electric Spark" under whom I had served for a year 

275 



in the S.S. Brescia three years previously. He believed devoutly 
in the power of prayer. 

The navigating officers were Chief Officer Hankinson; First Of- 
ficer Dean; Second Officer (myself); Third Officer Rees; Fourth 
Officer Barnish. Other officers included Chief Engineer Johnstone 
and six other Engineer Officers; Doctor Frank McGhee and two 
other doctors one Hungarian, one Italian; the Purser, E. G. F. 
Brown; Chief Steward Harry Hughes; and the Wireless Operator, 
Harold Cottam. 

Fifteen men of assorted abilities, associated as we were with 
one another and nearly 300 others of the ship's people in our 
various departments for working the ship, we had no inkling, at 
the outset of that voyage, that presently we were to be drawn into 
a maelstrom of tragedy and poignant emotion and disastrous mis- 
chance, unique in sea history; and that the mind-numbing horror 
that lay in wait for us would remain vivid in the memory of each 
and every one of us to the end of our days. 

The Carpathian upperdeck passenger accommodation had been 
refitted for a particular purpose on this voyage. In the ordinary 
course of events, after refitting, she would have proceeded from 
Liverpool to Fiume with empty passenger compartments, to re- 
sume the emigrant-carrying trade; but someone at the Head Office 
of the Company had the bright idea of using her for a "Mediter- 
ranean cruise." She could take a limited number of cruise pas- 
sengers as far as Naples. There they would be transferred to the 
Caronia, to be brought back to Liverpool. 

In 1912, the temporary use of passenger liners as holiday-cruise 
vessels was a novelty. Perhaps that outward cruise in the Car- 
pathia and return in the Caronia inaugurated the "cruise-craze" 
that later developed so extensively. The Caronia was taking cruise 
passengers from New York to the Mediterranean, and would re- 
turn to Liverpool for the transatlantic mail-run. 

A great deal of planning was, and still is, required at Cunard 
headquarters to organize the movements of the many vessels in 
the Company's service, on the various routes, to allow for rotation 
in refitting the ships, transfer and promotion of officers, annual 

276 



leave for the ships' people, and other routine or special require- 
ments. The officework on shore in a big shipping company is a 
complicated game of chess, in which the ships are the pieces moved. 

To make the Carpathian accommodation pleasant for the cruise 
passengers, her upperdeck cabins, which previously had the rating 
of second-class, were furbished and fitted out as first dass. The 
cruise was well advertised, and 200 pleasure seekers embarked 
for a holiday voyage to the "sunny Mediterranean." Among them 
were Captain Watt (then ex-Commodore of the Cunard Line) and 
his two daughters; Sir Robert MacConnel and his daughter, Mu- 
riel, and some well-known Belfast people, the Ross family and 
the McGuires, besides many others of wealth, culture, charm, and 
varied attainments all in quest of relaxation, in holiday mood. 

This was my first experience of a pleasure cruise. I have had 
many since, but none more lighthearted. The officers, like the ship, 
had been furbished, and were expected to be fountains of informa- 
tion when not actually on watch on the bridge. Captain Rostron 
not only had no objection to our mixing with the passengers, but 
encouraged and urged us to be sociable. We joined in dancing, 
games, shipboard concerts, and shore excursions at Lisbon, Gibral- 
tar, Algiers, Tunis, Ban, Venice, Fiume, Trieste, and other ports. 

All kinds of jokes were bandied around, and seemed side-split- 
ting at the time mainly puns! The Doctor and the Purser were 
inclined to be unsociable. They walked up and down the deck 
together, in deep conversation on philosophical matters, pre- 
sumably, as they didn't like to be interrupted. Miss McGuire nick- 
named them "Brace and Bit." 

"Why?" I asked her. 

"They're a complete boring outfit!" 

Miss MacConnel asked the Purser: "Don't you ever get home- 
sick?" 

"No," said the Purser. "I'm never home long enoughl" 

A steward said to one of the passengers, "Eight bells have gone, 
madam." 

"I didn't take them!" she said, indignantly. 

Catty jokes: "She's a decided blonde she only decided re- 
cently. . . ." "She's a suicide blonde dyed by her own hand." 

277 



Riddles: "What is pornography?" "A book on chessl" 
Nautical joke: The passenger in the Bay of Biscay who boasted 
that he had eight meals a day "Four down and four up. . . ." 

And so to Naples, and the end of an enjoyable cruise. One of 
our lady passengers, who had no sense of humor, was a highly edu- 
cated person, who pestered all the officers for information on nau- 
tical matters. Doctor McGhee remarked to me one day when he 
saw her approaching us on the deck, "She's a good woman in the 
worst sense of that word!" 

The studious lady asked me, "Why do you say 'port* for left' 
and 'starboard' for 'right'?" 

"Is this a riddle?" I countered. 

"No, I'm asking you for information on a serious matter!" 

"Well," I murmured, "if you're looking forward, the port side 
of the ship would be on your left, and the starboard on your 
right, certainly! But if you're looking aft, then the port side would 
be on your right and the starboard on your leftl That's why, to 
avoid confusion, we don't use right and left. Those words depend 
on an individual point of view, whereas port and starboard define 
the ship's sides at all times." 

"But if you're steering/' she argued, "you must look ahead." 

"Everyone in a ship isn't steering!" 

"The bow is the sharp end, and the stern is the blunt end is 
that correct?" she asked. 

"You could call them that, but I've never heard those terms 
used by sailors," I said. 

"Well, when you're looking toward the sharp end, starboard is 
on your right why?" 

"It's a nautical term!" 

"But what does it mean?" 

"It means what you've said. Starboard is the right-hand side of 
the ship when a person is looking forward or ahead!" 

"But what has it to do with a star or a board?" 

"Nothing! It's just a nautical term." 

"You don't know!" she said, triumphantly. "Well, I can tell 
you. I've just looked it up in my encyclopedia." 

278 



"Good gracious/' I gasped, "did you bring your encyclopedia 
-with you on a cruise?" 

"It's very necessary, to improve the mind, but it's only a small 
encyclopedia." 

"Go on/' I urged her. "Tell me what starboard means!" 

"It means steering-boardl" 

"How?" 

"In Viking ships they steered with a board overside, on the 
righthand side as the steersman looked ahead, the way you can 
steer a canoe with a paddle. This was called the steorbord or 
steering-board. Hence the starboard side means the steering-board 
side!" 

"But what about the port side?" I asked. 

"It used to be called the larboard side." 

"True enough, but why?" 

"Larboard in Old English meant loading-board, or gangplank. 
That was on the opposite side of the steering-board, or starboard. 
So it was called larboard, but it sounded too much like starboard, 
so they changed it to 'port side/ meaning the side of the ship 
nearest to the shore or wharf when loading/' she explained, 
learnedly. 

"You got all that from your little encyclopedia?" I exclaimed, 
astounded. 

"Yes, travel broadens the mind, doesn't it?" she said, earnestly. 

In many years of being quizzed by passengers, I found that it 
helped them to remember the difference between port and star- 
board if I reminded them that P-O-R-T has the same number of 
letters as L-E-F-T. Similarly, the navigation light on a vessel's 
port side is the same color as port wine. 

Every profession and trade has its own technical terms, but sea- 
faring men have to explain their mysteries to passengers espe- 
cially on pleasure cruises with as much patience as possible, and 
usually enjoy being quizzed. 

After our cruise passengers were disembarked at Naples, some 
minor alterations were made in the deck cabins, which were di- 
vided into first class and second dass, each with separate dining* 

279 



rooms, so that the Carpathia now had accommodation for 150 
first-class, 50 second-class, and 1,600 third-class passengers. The in- 
tention was to cater chiefly for American tourists in the first and 
second class, while continuing the emigrant transportation trade 
in the extensive third-class accommodation on the lower decks. 

We proceeded from Naples to Palermo in Sicily, for Italian and 
Sicilian emigrants, who had booked the entire third-class accom- 
modation. These lively people were catered for by Italian cooks, 
stewards, and stewardesses, and looked after by the Italian doctor, 
Italian purser's clerks, and Italian ship's police. The women's 
quarters were forward and men's quarters aft, strictly segregated 
after "lights out" at 11 P.M. The living-quarters were multiple- 
berth compartments, with promenade space on the foredeck and 
afterdeck. 

At our speed of fourteen knots, the passage from Palermo to 
New York required twelve days in fine weather. Soon after we left 
Palermo, the sinister Black Hand symbol of the Mafia secret soci- 
ety appeared in several places on the white paintwork throughout 
the third-class quarters. 

The boatswain reported this with indignation to the Captain, 
who, equally indignant, told him to clean off the Black Hands 
with turpentine, and to renew the white paintwork. This was 
done, but next morning more Black Hands were found in new 
places on bulkheads and along alleyways. The symbols of intimida- 
tion had been put on with black paint. 

Despite careful watch by the ship's police and crew, the cul- 
prits were never detected. As fast as the Black Hands were scrubbed 
out and painted over, new imprints were found elsewhere. This 
was extremely annoying. There was obviously a well-organized 
and determined gang of the Mafia on board, taking their gangster 
mentality with them to America. What their game was, we had 
no means of knowing. America would reform some of them and 
exterminate others, the incurables. 

Early in April, we docked in New York, and lay ten days at 
Pier 54 discharging and loading cargo. While we were there, the 
gigantic liner Olympic arrived. It was the first time that I had 

280 



seen her. She was berthed at the White Star Pier. I went on board 
her for a short visit of curiosity, and that was the first time that 
I ever trod the deck and bridge of a superliner of over 40,000 
tons a "leviathan liner," the first of her kind, in the long-ago of 
the spring of the year 1912, at the beginning of the Modern Age, 
with all its marvels and confusions. 

Her promenade deck was a quarter-of-a-mile around. Her bridge 
was 100 feet from port wing to starboard wing. Her boatdeck 
was 75 feet above the waterline. Everything was colossal, awe- 
inspiring, and, as I thought, unwieldy. I was old-fashioned enough 
to think that she must be "too big to handle" but that was only 
my innocence and perhaps envy. The young White Star officer who 
showed me her splendors explained that she was unsinkable. She 
had fifteen watertight bulkheads, the door of which could be 
closed electrically by pressing a button on the bridge. She had a 
double bottom. 

But very strangely she did not have a "double skin' 1 in the sides 
of her hull, as the Mauretania and the Lusitania had, for bunkers, 
and as the pioneer of all big ships, the Great Eastern, launched 
in 1858, had with her double hulls three feet apart. That expense 
had been saved, in the Olympic, as also in her sister, the Titanic. 
These new White Star mammoths were built with single hulls of 
riveted steel plates. The designers reckoned that a hole in the 
side, below water level, would flood one watertight compartment 
below decks, and then the ship would remain afloat with the 
buoyancy of the other watertight compartments. 

Unfortunately the watertight bulkheads had not been carried 
completely up to the deckheads. A leak too big for the pumps to 
subdue could cause water to overflow above the watertight bulk- 
heads from one compartment to another. It was extraordinary 
that the designers had overlooked this possibility. The publicity 
that these big ships were "unsinkable" was tragic optimism. 

The White Star people in New York were exultant at the news 
that the Titanic had completed her trials on April 1 April Fools* 
Dayl with a speed of 22 knots, and that she had arrived at 
Southampton on April 3, in readiness for her maiden voyage, 
scheduled to begin from Southampton on Wednesday, April 10, 

281 



with calls at Cherbourg and Queenstown. If she maintained an 
average speed of 22 knots, she would arrive in New York on Tues- 
day, April 16. The Olympic was due to leave New York on Sun- 
day, and the Titanic would berth two days later at the vacated 
pier. The two gigantic ships would probably sight one another in 
midocean. It would be a dramatic history-making encounter. 

News-cables reported that many prominent people had booked 
passages in the Titanic for her maiden voyage. Among them were 
the multimillionaires, John Jacob As tor, Benjamin Guggenheim, 
George D. Widener, Isidor Straus, Joseph Bruce Ismay (Managing 
Director of the White Star Line), Colonel Washington Roebling 
(builder of the Brooklyn Bridge), Charles Melville Hayes (Presi- 
dent of the Grand Trunk Railway) and J. P. Thayer (President 
of the Pennsylvania Railroad) some of the richest men in the 
world and many others in the mere million-dollar class. 

But wealth was not the only mark of the world fame in the Ti- 
tanic's dazzling first-voyage passenger list, which included the 
names of William Thomas Stead, the greatest of living journalists, 
who was loved and hated by millions of people for his opposition 
to the Boer War, and for his views on "spiritualism"; Henry Har- 
per of the leading American publishing firm; Henry Burkhardt 
Harris, theatrical magnate and entrepreneur, one of the most 
prominent and admired men in New York's theatrical world; 
Major Archibald Butt, a personal assistant of President Taft of 
the U.S.A.; Frank D. Millet, one of the foremost American paint- 
ers; Clarence Moore, one of the leading social lights of Washing- 
ton, D.C., who was a famous horseman and sportsman . , . 

The lists went on and on. These famous people and their 
womenfolk were the creme de la creme of America's upper-class 
society. Their names were household words in that period when 
wealth, social distinction, or intellectual and artistic achievements 
occupied the newspaper space that nowadays is given to film 
actors, sporting champions, and criminals. 

On Wednesday, April 10, at midday, the Titanic left South- 
ampton. She called at Cherbourg that evening to embark more 
passengers, and at Queenstown next day. 

She left Queenstown at 2 P.M. on Thursday, April 11, bound for 

282 



New York, having on board 1,316 passengers and 891 crew a 
total of 2,207 souls. 

Of the passengers, 328 were traveling first class, 272 second 
class, and 716 third class. 

She was not a "full ship." She was certified by the Board of Trade 
to carry 2,650 passengers and 897 crew a total of 3,547 souls. 

Canard's Mauretania zndLusitania were each certified to cany 
2,200 passengers and a crew of 900, total 3,100 souls. They were far 
better designed vessels in every way than the Olympic and the 
Titanic. 

On the day that the Titanic left Queenstown, westward bound 
for New York, the Carpathia left New York, eastward bound for 
Gibraltar and the Mediterranean. We had on board 120 first- 
dass and 50 second-class passengers chiefly Americans going as 
tourists to Europe and 565 third-dass passengers, who were 
chiefly Italians, Hungarians, Austrians, Serbians, and Greeks re- 
turning to their homelands on visits. In addition we had a crew 
of approximately 300, making a total of 1,035 souls in our care. 

But the Carpathia was, fortunately, not a full ship on this east- 
bound passage. She was certified to carry 2,100 souls. Almost two- 
thirds of her accommodation below decks was vacant, and all too 
soon it would be needed. 



283 



& 

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO 



The "Titanic" a "Hoodoo Ship" Mishap at 
Undocking Her Inadequate Lifeboat Accom- 
modation Premonitions of Disaster Her 
Track Across the Atlantic Driving on to Arrive 
on Schedule The "Carpathia's" Eastbound 
Track Ice Warnings Our Wireless Operator 
Visibility on the Fateful Night The Aurora 
BorealisThe "Titanic? s" Distress Signals-* 
First S O S in History "Carpathia" Rushes to 
the Rescue Captain Rostron's Preparations. 



AT the outset of her maiden voyage, when the Titanic was leav- 
ing Southampton, at noon on Wednesday, April 10, 1912, the 
problems of undocking a leviathan liner were graphically demon- 
strated. After her moorings had been cast off, and her propellers 
had begun to turn, her forward movement caused a sudden dis- 
placement of a vast volume of water inside the restricted space 
of the dock. This set up a suction which caused the American 
liner New York, berthed at an adjacent quay, to strain at her 
moorings. 

The New York was a vessel of 10,500 tons. The sudden strain 
snapped her manila mooring-lines. She swung away from the 
quay, drawn by the suction and by the pressure of a breeze, and 

284 



bore down rapidly toward the port beam of the Titanic, amid- 
ships. A collision appeared inevitable. The New York was entirely 
out of control, with her engines stopped and no officers on her 
bridge. 

The Commander of the Titanic, Captain Edward J. Smith, was 
on his bridge with the Pilot, and all his officers were on stations* 
Captain Smith was one of the most experienced of the White Star 
shipmasters. He had commanded the Adriatic and the Majestic, 
and had made several crossings of the Western Ocean in command 
of the Olympic before being appointed to command the Titanic 
on her maiden voyage. 

Instantly appraising the situation, he stopped the Titanic'* 
engines. Though the giant ship continued under way, the surge 
of her propellers had ceased, and, as she glided ahead, the swing- 
ing stern of the New York cleared the port quarter of the Titanic 
with only inches to spare. 

This narrow escape from a collision proved that the Master 
and the Pilot, and all others concerned in handling the big ship, 
had not yet acquired full experience of the theoretical and practi- 
cal problems created by her massive bulk. The amount of water 
displaced by a vessel of 46,000 tons in motion is capable of math- 
ematical calculation. As much as 60,000 tons may be pushed ahead 
of her and to the sides of the bow, creating an eddy or suction 
astern which is formidable in a narrow dock or embanked chan- 
nel, its force depending on the speed at which the vessel is moving. 

The Titanic had three screws, and it would have been advisable 
to use only one, at dead slow, to move her, with the aid of tugs, 
away from the wharf and out of the narrow mouth of the Itchen 
River and into Southampton Water; but even in that wider 
channel ships have to proceed slowly, to avoid damaging with 
their "wash" the embankments or other vessels at moorings. 

Captain Smith or the Pilot, or both of them, had underestimated 
this effect. The development of leviathan liners had created new 
problems of many kinds, requiring a new kind of seamanship. 
Technical progress had been too rapid for mental adjustments 
to it to be fully made. This is typical of progress in all fields of 

285 



human effort. Mistakes are made by pioneers for the benefit of 
those who come after. 

The Titanic was a "hoodoo ship" from the beginning, but 
only because she was a forerunner of the gigantic superliners. Not 
one, but many errors brought her to disaster; but from each of 
those errors the necessary lesson would be learned, to make her 
successors safe. 

Typical of the way in which mental adjustments lagged behind 
technical progress were the regulations of the Board of Trade for 
lifeboats. The Titanic was certified to carry a total of 3,547 persons, 
passengers and crew. Yet the regulations for lifeboat accommoda- 
tion were based on an old rule that was hopelessly out-of-date. 

This rule, made in 1894, stipulated that "vessels over 10,000 
tons" must carry sixteen lifeboats, with a total capacity of 5,500 
cubic feet, plus rafts or floats with 75 per cent of the capacity of 
the lifeboats, that is, an additional 4,125 cubic feet. 

As lifeboat accommodation is based on the calculation that one 
person requires ten cubic feet, the Titanic was therefore com- 
pelled by law to provide lifeboat and raft floatage for only 962 
persons, while at the same time she was certified by the Board of 
Trade to carry 3,547 personsl 

Apparently no one in authority had noticed this discrepancy. 
The Titanic had sixteen wooden-planked lifeboats and four "En- 
glehardt" patent collapsible boats or rafts. The total cubic capacity 
of this floatage was sufficient for 1,178 persons, scarcely more than 
half of the 2,207 persons carried in the liner on her maiden voyage. 

This was in excess of the Board of Trade requirements; but no 
one thought that lifeboats would be needed in an "unsinkable 
ship." No provision was made for boat-drill, or for lifeboat training 
of the crew. The regulations merely classified this huge vessel of 
46,000 tons as "over 10,000 tons" and the tragic incompetence of 
that definition was not apparent, until too late. 

The near mishap in the dock at the outset of the voyage was 
considered by some of the ship's people as an ill omen. This may 
have been superstition, or it may have been seamanlike judgment 
which took the form of a whisper that she was "unlucky." 

The rumor had started several days before the Titanic left 

286 



Southampton. Newspapers for months had been printing artides 
extolling her wonderful qualities, but, on the morning when she 
was due to leave Southampton, twenty-two men who had signed 
on in her crew were missing. At the last moment, thirteen others 
were signed on as substitutes. All members of the crew were British, 
and most of them had their homes in Southampton. 

When she reached Queenstown, one man deserted. If he was af- 
fected by the fo'c'sle rumor that she was an unlucky ship, or if he 
had some premonition of his own, perhaps he was "fey/' 

Leaving Queenstown at 2 P.M. on Thursday April 1 1 , the Titanic 
steamed along the Irish coast in fine weather, and had Fastnet 
Island abeam at 5 P.M. From there she steamed on the Great Cirde 
course southwesterly for 1,634 miles, to the vicinity of the "Corner" 
or turning-point, in long. 47 deg. W. lat 41 deg, 30 min. N., on 
the usual track of vessels westward bound for New York. 

At this point ships veer almost due westerly, headed for Sandy 
Hook at the entrance to New York Lower Bay, 1,222 miles from the 
"Corner." (These distances are approximate, as the "Atlantic 
Tracks" were not defined in 1912, and shipmasters set courses at 
their own discretion.) 

At a speed of 22 knots, she would travel 528 miles per day of 
twenty-four hours of elapsed time, but, as she was making a westing 
through thirty-seven and a half degrees of longitude between Fast- 
net and the "Corner," the dock was retarded two and a half hours 
in that transit, with a "gain" of time. 

In three days traveling from Fastnet, that is, in seventy-four and 
one half hours elapsed time, at 22 knots, she would cover 1,639 
miles, and would arrive at the "Corner" at 5 P.M. on Sunday, April 
14. 

To travel the distance of 1,222 miles from the Corner to Sandy 
Hook would require another 51 hours of elapsed time. Adding 
two and a half hours for the further westing to New York, this 
gain would be occupied in the slow-speed passage of the harbor 
channels and quarantine delays. She would therefore berth at 
New York at the earliest at 5 P.M. on Tuesday, April 16 an in- 
convenient time to arrive for publicity purposes. Moreover, a pas- 

287 



sage of six full days from Queenstown would evoke no paeans of 
praise for the "Wonder Ship" when the Mauretania was regularly 
making that passage in four-and-a-half days. 

Any reduction of the Titanic's speed below 22 knots, on the 
passage between the "Corner" and Sandy Hook, whether in the 
hours of darkness or daylight, would have meant either a night 
arrival in New York on Tuesday, or even a morning arrival on 
Wednesday, the seventh day out from Southampton a slow pas- 
sage in fine weather, with no excuses to be made for such an anti- 
climax to tremendous publicity. 

In these circumstances, the requirements of publicity, or, as a 
later generation would term it, "ballyhoo," took precedence over 
sound and safe seamanlike judgment. 

Captain Smith was at the disadvantage of having on board as a 
passenger the Managing Director of the White Star Line, Bruce 
Ismay. There is testimony that Ismay urged the Captain to main- 
tain maximum speed, and dictated to him the expected time of 
arrival at New York. 

The speed was increased to twenty-two and one half knots during 
the hours of darkness on Sunday. This was the greatest speed of 
which the Titanic was capable. Her average speed on the preceding 
three days, from Fastnet to the "Corner," had been slightly less 
than twenty-two knots. As with all who recklessly press on to reach 
a destination, regardless of risks by the way, on land as on sea or 
in the air, the belief is that time gained is time saved but what 
do they do with the time they save? 

At sea, the shipmaster must be in sole command. He has the 
duty as well as the right to ignore any orders from the owner in 
matters concerning navigation. If Captain Smith deferred to Ismay, 
that was one of the factors, but not the only one, in the Titanic 
tragedy . . . 

On Sunday morning, when the Titanic had not yet reached the 
"Corner," the Carpathia ,was plugging along at fourteen knots, 
eastward bound on the Great Circle course from Sandy Hook to 
Gibraltar. I was on the bridge in the 8 A.M. to 12 noon watch. On 
this third day out, covering 336 miles in a day of twenty-four hours, 

288 



we were approximately 1,000 miles to the eastward of New York 
but we were "losing time" that is the ship's dock was being ad' 
vanced one hour for each fifteen degrees of longitude in our east- 
ing (roughly 675 miles in that latitude). 

Our course was easterly, a little to the north of the 40th parallel 
of N. latitude. At 9 A.M., our wireless operator, Harold Cottam, 
handed up to the bridge a message he had picked up from the 
Cunarder Caronia, which was westward bound from Liverpool to 
New York. She reported sighting ice in lat. 42 deg. N., extending 
from long. 49 deg. W. to 51 deg. W. 

This was nothing for us to worry about, as we were to the south- 
ward of it, but I informed the Captain, who remarked, "It seems to 
be a big field. Keep a sharp lookout. Carry on!" 

The Caronia's message was picked up also by the Titanic. It was 
the first of several ice-warnings that she received during that day. 

We had only one wireless operator in the Carpathia. He had a 
"shack" on deck abaft the bridge. His apparatus had a range of 
not much more than 150 miles. We considered him to be of very 
little use. He could communicate with vessels beyond our visual 
range; but vessels that we could not see were of little interest and 
certainly no danger to us. From eye level on the bridge, fifty feet 
above water level, we had a view to the horizon eight miles away, 
and that was more than enough sea room in which to avoid colli- 
sions with any other vessels, or with icebergs. 

It was a clear, sunny day, with excellent visibility, but a spar- 
kling f rostiness in the air, caused by cold currents from the icefield 
to our north. 

I went off duty at noon, loafed around, chatted with passengers, 
and had a nap during the afternoon. The eight to twelve watch 
was by far the best for getting in good sleeps at "natural" hours of 
rest. 

When I came on duty again at 8 P.M., I noticed that two more 
ice warnings had been picked up by Cottam. One was from the 
White Star Baltic, eastward bound, reporting ice sighted at 1:42 
P.M. in long. 49 deg. 52 min. W., lat. 41 deg. 51 min. N. The other 
was from the Leyland Line cargo steamer Calif ornian, westward 

289 



bound, reporting ice at 7:30 F.M. in long. 49 deg. 9 min. W., lat. 
42 deg. 3 min. N. 

Cottam mentioned also that the Titanic was now strongly with- 
in his radio range. She was sending a large number of commercial 
marconigrams to Cape Race in Newfoundland for transmission by 
cable from there to New York or to Europe. "Busy traffic," he com- 
mented. "Stock exchange quotations and that sort of thing for 
the multimillionaires!" 

The icefield defined by the messages sent out by the Caronia, the 
Baltic, and the Calif ornian was directly in the Titanic's track. She 
had received all these warnings. 

As the Carpathia carried only one wireless operator, his instru- 
ment was left unattended while he took his meals, rest, and recre- 
ation. He sent and received messages only in Morse, with ear- 
phones clamped over his head. Being an enthusiast, he was to be 
seen crouched over his apparatus, sending or receiving messages, 
for many hours throughout the day, from 7 A.M. until 11 P.M. or 
even midnight. 

Ships equipped with wireless usually carried only one operator. 
It had not occurred to shipowners that three operators are re- 
quired to stand watches in rotation for an efficient twenty-four 
hours service per day. The main duty of the operators was to 
send and receive commercial marconigrams for passengers to and 
from shore stations, which relayed them as telegrams. Ships' mes- 
sages were also transmitted as marconigrams. These included mes- 
sages between ships, such as ice warnings, or between ships and 
the shore, with expected times of arrivals or owners' instructions 
and suchlike. 

When marconigram business was slack, the operators in ships 
"gossiped" unofficially with one another, often in a joking and 
sometimes profane and insulting manner. The operators nearly al- 
ways knew what ships were within range, and exchanged at least 
identification signals and brief messages of greeting. There was 
no systematic organization of the use of "wave-lengths." The op- 
erators manipulated their crystal detectors, until they heard sig- 
nals, and then joined in, listening for anything of interest, or 
sometimes "chipping in" with a comment or their own identifica- 

290 



tion. Frequently an operator transmitting marconigraios would 
signal to another in his neighborhood Q R L, meaning "Keep 
quiet, I'm busy," or G T H ("Get to helll") 

Nearing the shore, on both sides of the Atlantic, conditions in 
the ether were made chaotic by the activities of hundreds of ama- 
teurs, known as "tin-can operators," who cut in on ships' messages 
with their own comments, sometimes frivolous or sarcastic. These 
pests "faded" 150 miles from the shore, but, even in midocean, 
there were usually half a dozen or more ships within range of one 
another at any time, and many of the operators, having met on 
shore or in training schools, were personally acquainted. They 
were a fraternity of pioneers, considered to be cranks, and had the 
curious habit of addressing one another as O M ("Old Man"). A 
common signal exchanged between them was GTHOMQRL 
("Get to hell, old man, shut up, I'm busyl"), or A S O M ("Wait a 
minute, old man!"). Acknowledgment of an identification was 
often T U O M G N ("Thank you, old man, goodnight"). 

At 9:40 P.M., Cottam handed up to the bridge a message he had 
just received from a westward bound steamer, SJ$. Messaba, re- 
porting an extensive icefield sighted from long. 49 deg. W. to 50 
deg. 30 min. W., between lat. 41 deg. 25 min. N. and lat. 42 deg. N. 

This was only a confirmation of the warnings we had received 
earlier in the day from the Caronia, the Baltic, and the Califor- 
nian. On our course we had not sighted any ice. We were thirty 
miles to the southward of this field, which according to the various 
warnings received during the day appeared to be slowly drifting 
southwards from lat. 42 deg. N., and now had its southern limit in 
lat. 41 deg. 25 min. 

Captain Rostron came on to the bridge, and I told him of the 
latest ice warning. He called the Wireless Operator and asked him 
what ships were within his range* 

"The Titanic, sir," said Cottam, "coming in very strong. She 
seems to be only thirty or forty miles away, but may be more, as 
she has a powerful transmitter. She's sending marconigrams to 
Cape Race. Then there's the Calif ornian. She's stopped her engines 
for the night because she's surrounded by ice/' 

291 



"It must be thick, then," commented the Captain, quickly. "I 
suppose that the Titanic will have to slow down, or steer a more 
southerly course than the usual track. Shell be late in New York. 
It's hard luck on her maiden voyage! Any other ships near?" 

Cottam told him that he had identified four others within his 
150-mile range-radius of our position the Norddeutscher Lloyd 
S.S. Frankfort; the Canadian Pacific S.S. Mount Temple; the Allan 
Liner S.S. Virginian; and a Russian cargo-steamer, S.S. Birma. 
These were in addition to the Messaba, the White Star Baltic, and 
the Cunarder Caronia identified earlier in the day. He had picked 
up faint signals also from the Olympic, now eastward bound out of 
New York, 500 or 600 miles to the westward of our position. She, 
like the Titanic, had a powerful transmitter, and carried two 
operators. 

"Thank you," said the Captain. "I suppose you'll be turning in 
presently for the night?" 

"Yes, sir," said Cottam. "I may listen in to Cape Race for awhile, 
in case there is any news of the coal strike in England." 

I walked with the Captain in the darkness to the port wing of 
the bridge. The weather was calm, the sea smooth, with no wind. 
The sky was clear, and the stars were shining. There was no moon, 
but the Aurora Borealis glimmered like moonbeams shooting up 
from the northern horizon. The air was intensely cold. 

Though visibility was good, the peculiar atmospheric conditions, 
caused partly by the melting of the large icefield to our north- 
wards in the waters of the Gulf Stream, made the sea and sky seem 
to blend into one another, so that it was difficult to define the 
horizon. 

Captain Rostron stood silently gazing ahead, and to the sky, 
and then turned to the north, watching the play of light from the 
Aurora Borealis. I knew better than to interrupt his meditations. 
Presently he raised his cap a few inches from his forehead, and 
uttered a silent prayer, moving his lips soundlessly. 

After this he turned to me, and said, in a matter-of-fact voice, 
"You may sight the Titanic if she bears southward to avoid the 
ice. I don't suppose she'll try to run through it, when the growlers 
and bergs are so thick that the Calif ornian has stopped for the 

292 



night. Wonderful thing, wireless, isn't it? The ice has come south 
very early this year. There must have been an early thaw on the 
Labrador Coast. We're in dear water here, but keep your eyes 
peeled, all the samel" 

"We'll soon be into the warmer weather," I remarked. 

"Who knows what's ahead?" he said, quietly, then added, "I'm 
sorry for Smith of the Titanic. After all the newspaper boasting, 
she's proved a slowcoach on her maiden voyage, and now this ice- 
field will make him lose more time if he steers to the southward 
around it, as I suppose he will! She must be a wonderful ship, but 
all their newspaper bragging seems a kind of blasphemy, claiming 
that she's 'unsinkable' and all that kind of thing." 

Aware of the Captain's piety, and respecting it, I murmured 
agreement. He changed the subject briskly. "The night's dear, 
and I'll turn in." Going into the chartroom, he wrote out his 
night orders, handed them to me, and, in his usual crisp manner, 
said "Goodnight!" and went to his cabin below the bridge. 

The quartermaster at the wheel struck four bells for 10 P.M., 
repeated by the lookout man in the crow's nest on his bigger bell 
with the cry, "All's well and lights burning brightly." 

The promenade decks of the Carpathia were deserted on this 
chilly night, and the ship gradually became silent as the passengers 
turned in to their bunks, free of care. At six bells (11 P.M.) all was 
quiet, except for the throbbing of the engines; and most of the 
lights on deck and in the passenger compartments and saloons 
had been put out. 

There was a light in the wireless shack. Cottam was listening 
to the stream of marconigrams sent out by Operator Jack Phillips 
of the Titanic. He heard Operator Cyril Evans, of the Calif omian, 
trying to cut in with an ice warning, "We are stopped, blocked 
by ice." 

At that time (11 P.M.) the Titanic was not more than twenty 
miles from the Calif ornian. The mammoth ship was driving on, at 
her utmost speed of twenty-two and one half knots, trying to make 
up time, and headed toward the icefield. Cottam smiled as he heard 
the curt reply from Phillips to Evans, "Shut up, old man, I'm 
busy!" 

295 



After that, Evans closed down for the night and went to bed. 
Cottam also hung up his earphones and got ready to retire. He 
had every right to do so, as Evans had. The Titanic's big-business 
marconigrams to Cape Race were not worth listening to. 

At 11:40 P.M., the Titanic struck an iceberg, ten miles south- 
wards from where the Calif ornian lay at a standstill, and approxi- 
mately fifty miles N.W. by N. of the Carpathian position at that 
time. The collision had been a glancing blow on the starboard 
bow, and the big liner proceeded half a mile or more before she 
was stopped for investigations of the damage. 

The wireless distress call was not sent out immediately. I had 
heard nothing new from Cottam at midnight, when I was relieved 
on the bridge by First Officer Dean. I handed over the Carpathian 
course and details to him, and went to my cabin below the bridge. 
Captain Rostron's cabin was in darkness. He had gone to bed two 
hours previously. 

There was a light in the wireless shack. I saw Cottam unlacing 
his boots, getting ready to turn in. He had taken the headphones 
off his ears. 

I undressed and got into bed. Not feeling very sleepy, I picked 
up a book and began reading. At 00.15 A.M., the Titanic sent out 
her first distress-call: "C Q D C Q D C Q D (six times) M G Y (Ti- 
tanic's call sign). Have struck an iceberg. We are badly damaged, 
lat. 41.46 N., long. 50.14 W." 

Cottam was not listening at that moment. Ten minutes later, at 
00.25 A.M., he idly picked up the headphones. At that time nothing 
was being transmitted. Instead of switching off and going to bed, 
he decided to call up Phillips of the Titanic. On getting the curt 
response from Phillips "K" ("Go ahead"), he began affably 
tapping out "G M O M (Good morning, old man). Do you know 
that there are despatches for you at Cape Cod?" 

To his utter amazement Phillips broke in: "C Q D C Q D SOS 
SOS CQD SOS. Come at once. We have struck a berg. C Q D 
O M. Position 41.46 N., 50.14 W. C Q D SO S." 

This was the first time in history that the internationally agreed 
signal of distress was sent out from, a liner at sea. 

294 



Cottam, half dressed, sprang up to the bridge, told Dean of 
the message, and then woke the Captain. 

By this time it was 00.30 A.M., and I was dozing off to sleep. Sud- 
denly I heard the Captain's voice, singing out orders up to the 
bridge, "Stop her. Send for the Chief Engineer. Send for the Chief 
Officer. Call all the Officers. Call all hands on deck and get ready 
to swing out the boats." 

This last order particularly brought me out of my bunk on the 
jump. I flung on my clothes and overcoat, pulled on my boots and 
sprang up the bridge ladder to find out what was what. Dean 
tersely informed me in an excited voice, "The Titanic has struck 
a berg and has sent out the distress signal." 

Already the Carpathia was being turned around. The Captain 
was in the chartroom, working out the course. He came out onto 
the bridge and said briskly to the helmsman, "North 52 West! 
Full ahead!" 

"Aye aye, sir, North 52 Westl" 

The other officers, including the Chief Engineer, were now on 
the bridge. The Captain beckoned us into the chartroom, and said, 
"The Titanic has struck a berg and is in distress fifty-eight miles 
from here on the bearing N. 52 W. We will make our utmost speed 
in going to her rescue. Call out an extra watch in the engine-room 
and raise every ounce of steam possible. We may reach her in four 
hours. All seamen on deck for sharp lookout and to swing out the 
boats. We may have to pick up 2,000 or more people. All stewards 
on duty to prepare blankets, hot coffee, tea, and soup. The doctors 
to stand by in the dining-rooms. All gangway doors to be opened. 
Boatswain's chairs slung at each gangway. Pilot ladders overside. 
Forward derricks to be rigged and steam on winches. Oil to be 
got ready to quiet the sea if needed. Rockets to be got ready. Every- 
thing must be done as quietly as possible so as not to alarm our own 
passengers." 

All this, quickly spoken in Captain Rostron's dear and steady 
tones within less than a minute, roused men still drowsy to a pitch 
of intense alertness. The Chief Engineer hurried below. The Chief 
Officer attended to details on deck, telling us off for the various 
duties, while more and more orders flowed from the Captain. 

295 



Within a few minutes the engines increased the tempo of their 
thudding, and presently we were belting along at sixteen knots: 
the greatest speed that old lady had ever done in her life. The 
Captain called me to the starboard wing of the bridge. "Station 
yourself here, Mister, and keep a special lookout for lights or 
flares and for ice! I will remain on the bridge. In this smooth sea 
it's no use looking for white surf around the base of the bergs, 
but you will look for the reflection of starshine in the ice pin- 
nacles. We'll be into the icefield at 3 A.M., or perhaps earlier. 
Extra lookouts will be posted on the bows and in the crow's nest, 
and on the port wing of the bridge, but I count on you, with your 
good eyesight, and with God's help, to sight anything in time for 
us to clear it. Give that all your attention!" 

"Aye aye, sir!" 

As the Carpathia thrust on into the night, Captain Rostron 
stood silently beside me for a minute, his cap raised a little from 
his brow, and his lips moving in silent prayer. 

Then, like an electric spark, he was hurtling around, galvanizing 
everybody to activity. 



296 





CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE 



Hastening to the Rescue Wireless Signals Cease 

Navigating Among the Bergs We Sight Flares 

Gray Dawn and Choppy Seas A Lifeboat in 
Sight Picking up the Survivors "Women and 
Children First 9 ' The Living and the Dead A 
Vortex of Calamity Grief Beyond Words The 
Tragic Scene at Sunrise. 



ON the Captain's instructions, our wireless operator (Cottam) had 
signaled to the Titanic at 00.45 A.M.: "We are coining as quickly 
as possible and expect to be there within four hours/' This was 
acknowledged by Phillips: "T U O M (Thank you, old man)." 

After that Cottam did not send any more signals. He refrained 
from doing anything which would interef er with the transmissions 
from the Titanic. He heard her signals answered by other ships 
the Frankfort, the Mount Temple, and, at 1.25 A.M. from a great 
distance (400 to 500 miles to the westward) by the Olympic. But 
there was no signal from the Calif ornian, which lay only ten miles 
from the Titanic'* position. Her wireless operator had shut down 
for the night and gone to bed before the first distress signal was 

sent out. 

The land-station at Cape Race had heard the distress signal, and 
was relaying it to ships at sea, and to other stations on land. It was 

297 



from this source that the news first reached New York, picked up by 
amateur wireless operators. 

At 1.25 A.M., Cottam heard the Titanic signaling to the Olympic, 
"We are putting the women off in the boats." At 1.45, the Titanic 
called up the Carpathia: "Come as quickly as possible. Engine 
room filling up to the boilers. T U O M G N." 

When these two messages were handed to Captain Rostron, he 
envisaged for the first time the possibility that the Titanic might 
actually be foundering. Until then, he had assumed that she was 
seriously damaged otherwise she would not have sent out a dis- 
tress signal but he expected that she would remain afloat, and 
that possibly the whole of her passengers, crew, and mails would 
have to be transferred to the Carpathia, or to other steamers which 
might hasten to the rescue. 

It seemed incredible that the great "unsinkable ship" could ac- 
tually sink. At 1.45 A.M., her wireless signals became faint. This in- 
dicated that the electric power plant had failed, and that the re- 
serve batteries were being used. At 2.05 A.M., her wireless signals 
ceased entirely. At this time the Carpathia had run twenty-four 
miles at the forced speed of sixteen knots. We were thirty-four miles 
from the Titanic's position. 

At 2.40, when we had twenty-five miles to go, we sighted a green 
light on the horizon ahead. For a moment this was disconcerting. 
It looked like the starboard navigation light of a steamer, perhaps 
of the Titanic herself, unaccountably nearer than we had thought; 
but then the light vanished, and we knew that it had been a pyro- 
technic rocket, flaring at 500 feet above sea level, to appear to us 
to be on the horizon from our distance of twenty-five miles away. 

Though the night was cloudless, and stars were shining, the 
peculiar atmospheric conditions of visibility intensified as we ap- 
proached the icefield with the greenish beams of the Aurora Bo- 
realis shimmering and confusing the horizon ahead of us to the 
northwards. My face was smarting in the frosty air as I stood on 
the wing of the bridge, keeping a lookout for icebergs. 

When the green flare was sighted ahead, Captain Rostron or- 
dered a rocket to be fired in reply, followed by the Cunard identifi- 
cation rockets of colored balls of fireworks ("Roman candles"), 

298 



and these were repeated every fifteen minutes, to let the Titanic 
people know our position . The sudden ^^ Q ^ 

rockets added to the difficulties of lookout, but they were an im- 
perative procedure in the circumstances. 

At 2.45 I sighted the glimmer of a stobeaxa in an iceberc three- 
quarters-of-a-mile ahead of us on the port bow. I immediately re- 
ported it by singing out to the Captain, who was standing by the 
helmsman. He reacted promptly in a seamanlike manner, altering 
course to starboard and reducing to half speed. 

Then he strode out to the port wing of the bridge to make his 
own observations, and, when he had sighted the berg and saw that 
we had avoided it with ample clearance, and that no other obstruc- 
tion was in sight, he brought the ship back to her former course and 
moved the engine-telegraph handle again to Full Speed Ahead. 

I may remark now, in the retrospect of the years, that, in this in- 
cident, and what followed it, my own feelings and senses were con- 
centrated to a rare pitch of intensity. I dare say that every man on 
the bridge and on lookout in the Carpathia felt likewise that his 
nerves were as taut as violin strings, attuned by the hand of a mas- 
ter player. 

Arthur Rostron, responsible for the safety of 1,035 souls in his 
own ship, but knowing that more than 2,000 people were in peril 
twenty miles away, and that every minute was precious, drove the 
Carpathia at forced full speed, in darkness, into the icefield in 
which the Titanic had met with disasterl 

In taking this calculated risk, he relied on seamanship and sharp 
lookout, which had apparently been neglected in the Titanic. He 
knew as every shipmaster of experience gained in the North 
Atlantic, and to the south of Cape Horn, knew that icebergs are 
visible by starlight half-a-mile ahead in dear weather. That allows 
sufficient sea room in which to avoid them. 

In the Carpathia we had a dozen pairs of eyes on the lookout for 
bergs. It happened that I sighted the first one we met with, be- 
cause I had been specially told off for that purpose, and I had keen 
eyesight, and I knew what to look for, and I was keyed up to ab- 
normal alertness; but, if I had not sighted it, the men in the crow's 
nest, or on the bows, or on the other wing of the bridge, would 

299 



assuredly have done so in time to sing out a warning to the men 
in the wheelhouse who were standing on the alert for that very 
warning. 

The fact that the Titanic had struck a berg in calm weather on 
a clear night meant one of three things insufficient lookout; re- 
sponses too slow from her bridge; or that the big vessel at her full 
speed had not quickly enough answered her helm to avoid a col- 
lision. 

Despite her extensive electrical installations, the Titanic either 
did not have a searchlight or did not use it. We in the Carpathia 
did not have a searchlight; but as our track was to the southward of 
ice limits, we did not need one. In fact, very few merchant ships 
used searchlights, except in the passage of the Suez Canal. 

The disaster of the Titanic was due to a combination of excep- 
tional circumstances, and not to any one factor for which any in- 
dividual could be blamed. The calm sea and the absence of wind 
to whip a surf around the base of the berg made sighting unusually 
difficult; the ice had come further south than usual at that time of 
the year; finally, the berg was not isolated, but was part of an ex- 
tensive field which greatly increased the mathematical chances of 
collision. Yet these were only some of the many exceptional ele- 
ments that combined to produce the Titanic disaster . . . 

Within a few minutes we sighted another berg. We steered 
around it as before, and then sighted another, and another. 

Captain Rostron later stated his earnest belief that the "hand of 
God was on the helm of the Carpathia" during that half hour 
when, in eight more miles at forced full speed, we zigzagged among 
the bergs, clearing them with sufficient room as we sighted them 
one after the other. 

At 3.15 we were within twelve miles of the Titanic's wirelessed 
position. At intervals we sighted green flares, and our course was 
steered now on bearings from these, but we could not sight the 
big liner's masthead lights, or any other lights of her superstructure 
or hull. At 3.30 there were numerous bergs surrounding us, and 
small growlers of ice grinding along our hull plates. 

Captain Rostron reduced speed to half, and then to slow, as the 
Carpathia was steered cautiously toward a green flare sighted low 

300 



in the water, at a distance difficult to judge in the continuing 
peculiar conditions of visibility. It appeared likely, but at first was 
not certain, that this flare was from a lifeboat. 

We were longing for daylight. I glanced at the deck of the bridge, 
and to my joy could see the holes in the gratings. Daylight was 
coming in. The light of the green flare toward which we were steer- 
ing had burned out. Captain Rostron ordered the engines to be 
stopped. It was 4 A.M. We had arrived in three-and-a-half hours. 

Powerful is the force of routine. As eight bells sounded for the 
change of the watch, the lookout man in the crow's nest sang out 
the long-drawn wailing cry, "A-a-all's WELL and LIGHTS burn- 
ing BRIGHTLY . . ." 

First Officer Dean was relieved on the bridge by Chief Officer 
Hankinson. At that moment, in the dim gray light of dawn, we 
sighted a lifeboat a quarter of a mile away. She was rising and fall- 
ing in the ocean swell, and now, as so often happens at dawn, a 
breeze sprang up and whipped the surface of the water to choppy 
seas. 

The boat was laboring toward us. In her sternsheets stood a man 
wearing officer's cap and uniform, steering with the tiller. Only 
four other men were in the boat, each of them with an oar, but 
rowing feebly, as though they were inexperienced, and also utterly 
exhausted. Huddled in the boat were twenty-five women and ten 
children. 

With the breeze that had sprung up, the boat was on our wind- 
ward side, and drifting toward us. It was not practicable to maneu- 
ver the Carpathia to windward of the boat, so that she could maie 
fast on our lee side in the smoother water there, as correct sea- 
manship required. A large iceberg was ahead of us, which would 
have made that maneuver difficult when time was the chief con- 
sideration. If the boat had been well manned, she could have 
passed under our stern to the leeward side; but, as she drifted down 
toward us, the officer sang out, "I can't handle her very well. We 
have women and children and only one seaman." 

Captain Rostron gave me an order, "Go overside with two 
quartermasters, and board her as she comes alongside. Fend her 

301 



off so that she doesn't bump, and be careful that she doesn't cap- 
size." 

I hurried with two seamen to the rail of the fore deck, where 
rope ladders were hung overside. As the boat came alongside, 
we climbed quickly down and sprang onto her thwarts, and, by 
dint of much balancing and fending off, succeeded in steadying the 
boat and dropping her astern to an open side door on "C" Deck, 
where we made her fast with her painter to lines lowered by willing 
hands from the doorway. 

Many of the women and children castaways were seasick from 
the sudden choppy motion of the boat caused by the dawn breeze. 
All were numbed with cold, as most of them were lightly clad. 
Some were quietly weeping. 

As they were in no fit condition to climb safely up the short 
Jacob's ladder to the side door, bosun's chairs were lowered, also 
canvas bags into which we placed the children, and, one at a time, 
they were all hauled to safety. 

During this operation, we were occupied with allaying the fears 
of the women and children, and getting them safely out of the 
boat. They behaved well, waiting their turns to be hauled up to 
the door. 

As we fastened one of the women into a bosun's chair, I noticed 
that she was wearing a nightdress and slippers, with a fur coat. 
Beneath the coat she was nursing what I supposed was a baby, but 
it was a small pet dog! "Be careful of my doggie," she pleaded, 
more worried about her pet's safety than her own. 

When the women and children had been sent up, the four oars- 
men and the officer climbed up the ladder the officer being the 
last of the castaways to leave the boat. I followed him up, leaving 
our two seamen in charge of the boat, to hook her on to Number 
One derrick, ready to be hoisted to our foredeck. 

The officer was a young man, Joseph Boxhall, Fourth Officer of 
the Titanic. I took him up to the bridge, to report to our Captain. 

Without preliminaries, Rostron burst out, excitedly, "Where is 
the Titanic?" 

"Gonel" said Boxhall. "She sank at 2.20 A.M." 

In the moment of stunned silence that followed, every man on 

302 




Gold medal pre- 
sented by Titanic 
survivors to officers 
of S.S. Carpathia, 
1912- The design 
shows Carpathia 
with lifeboats ap- 
proaching amid ice- 
bergs. King Nep- 
tune above, anchor 
and dolphins be- 
low. 









Inscription on ob- 
verse o Titanic 
medal. 



SijH^ilB^fe''--^fc!Mi'*fe:JsAWftsfclS 







%is'?*y 

*!*-/ 

U.S. Coast Guard pfioLo 

Titanic memorial service on U.S. International Ice Patrol vessel. This service is 
held each year on the anniversary of the disaster, at the spot where she sank. 



the bridge of the Carpathia could envisage the appalling reality, 
but not yet to its fullest extent. It was now 4.20 A.M. 

Boxhall added, in a voice of desperation, "She was hoodoo'd 
from the beginning. . . ." 

Captain Rostron took the young officer by the arm, and said 
quietly and kindly to him, "Never mind that, m'son. Tell me, 
were all her boats got away safely?" 

"I believe so, sir. It was hard to see in the darkness. There were 
sixteen boats and four collapsibles. Women and children were 
ordered into the boats. She struck the berg at 11.40. The boats 
were launched from 12.45 onwards. My boat was cleared away 
at 1.45, one of the last to be lowered. Many of the boats were only 
half full. People wouldn't go into them. They didn't believe that 
she would sink . . " 

"Were many people left on board when she sank?" 

"Hundreds and hundreds! Perhaps a thousand! Perhaps more!" 
Boxhall's voice broke with emotion. "My God, sir, they've gone 
down with her. They couldn't live in this icy cold water. We had 
room for a dozen more people in my boat, but it was dark after 
the ship took the plunge. We didn't pick up any swimmers. I fired 
flares ... I think that the people were drawn down deep by 
the suction. The other boats are somewhere near. . . ." 

"Thank you, Mister," said Rostron. "Go below and get some 
coffee, and try to get warm." 

Our immediate task was only too dear to search for the people 
in boats or rafts, and any other survivors. The increasing daylight 
revealed dozens of icebergs within our horizon. Among them were 
four of five big bergs, towering up to two hundred feet above water 
level. One of these was the one that the Titanic had struck. Dozens 
of smaller "calves" or growlers drifted sluggishly on the choppy 
seas. To the northwards was a field of pack ice extending west- 
wards for many miles. 

On all sides we could see lifeboats making laboriously toward 
us, some dangerously overcrowded, some half empty. A mile away 
was a mass of wreckage, like an island, marking the spot where 
the Titanic had gone down. Captain Rostron decided that we must 

303 



give priority to picking up the people in the boats. They were in 
danger of perishing from exposure to the cold, or perhaps of cap- 
sizing; and among them were a large number of women and chil- 
dren. They at least were living, and could be rescued; but it was 
unlikely that any swimmers could have survived in water that was 
almost at freezing point, among those chunks of melting ice. 

In four-and-a-quarter hours, from 4.15 A.M. to 8.30 P.M., we 
picked up 703 survivors from the sixteen wooden lifeboats and 
four "Englehardt" collapsible boats. After 6 A.M., the Carpathians 
deckrails were lined with our own passengers, joined by increas- 
ing numbers of rescued people, anxiously watching each boat ar- 
rive. The rescue operations proceeded in a deathly silence. Except 
for an occasional working order, no one was capable of saying any- 
thing that would be adequate to the occasion. 

The Titanic lay in Davy Jones's Locker, two miles deep below 
us. With her plunge to those deeps, fifteen hundred people had 
been drawn down to death in the icy waters, to perish in a vortex 
hundreds of fathoms deep. Their bodies, with the added buoy- 
ancy of the cork lifebelts which most of them wore, would gradu- 
ally rise again to the surface. If any strong swimmers had got clear 
of the down suction, or had clung to wreckage in the darkness, 
they would surely have perished of cold within two hours after 
being immersed. The surface temperature of the water, by ther- 
mometer readings, was 33 F. only one degree above freezing 
point. This was due to the large quantity of ice floating in small 
pieces from the disintegrating bergs. 

The dead bodies were there, totally or partially submerged, but, 
in the choppy seas, it was now almost impossible to sight them, as 
white lifejackets would have an appearance similar to that of the 
thousands of small pieces of floating ice or white-painted wreck- 
age. A dead body floats almost submerged. 

The water had a sinister greenish crystal tinge. People lining 
the decks of the Carpathia stared overside in shocked fascination 
and horror; for here, a thousand miles from land, the elemental 
ocean was, in truth, a watery grave, in which, as a quick count and 
calculation indicated, the lives of fifteen hundred human beings 

304 



had been extinguished almost without warning plunged from 
warmth, light, and gaiety to icy doom. 

Captain Rostron ordered the Carpathian house-flag to be low- 
ered to half mast. The ship was in mourning. 

At 8 A.M., when eight bells were struck, the lookout man's wail- 
ing cry of "A-a-all's WELL!" resounded like a ghostly sardonic 
lamentation, mocking the truth. But it had a meaning, beyond 
routine. In the midst of death we were in life. 

Though so many had perished, many, too, had been saved. For 
them, at least, all was as well as could now be expected. 

I took over the watch on the bridge from Chief Officer Hankin- 
son. It was of no importance that I had gone without sleep all 
night, and that I had already been on duty for twelve hours; for, 
like all the other officers and members of the crew, I was keyed 
up to the tenseness of action in which fatigue is unnoticed. 

Now the morning sunlight rippled on the slight seas. The last 
of the Titanic's lifeboats was laboring toward the Carpathia. She 
was crowded with seventy-five survivors, and her gunwales were 
within three inches of the water; but a good seaman was at her 
tiller. He was Charles Lightoller, Second Officer of the Titanic. He 
had gone down with the ship, and had been picked up by Boat 
Number Twelve. He had taken command of her, and had picked 
up other survivors. We maneuvered the Carpathia to windward, 
and drifted down to him, so that he was able to make fast along- 
side in our lee, and all the people in the boat were got safely on 
board. 

Besides Lightoller and Boxhall, two other officers of the Titanic 
were saved. They were Third Officer Herbert Pitman and Fifth 
Officer Harold Lowe. All these officers had done grand work in 
launching the boats and handling them. 

When Lightoller arrived with the last of the possible survivors, 
the best and worst was known. We had then received on board 
493 passengers of the Titanic, comprising 315 women, 52 children, 
and 126 men. The rule when her lifeboats were lowered had been 
"women and children first." 

We had also picked up 210 of the crew, comprising 189 men 
and 21 women. In all, we had 703 survivors on board, and the 

305 



bodies of four men who had died of exposure in the lifeboats. 

According to later published official estimates, a total of 1,503 
persons had perished. These were 661 men, 101 women, and 53 
children of the passengers, and 686 men and 2 women of the crew. 

Of the women and children who had perished, some had timidly 
refused a chance to go into the lifeboats. Others in the confusion 
had been unable to reach the lifeboat stations from below decks. 

The final rollcall of the dead and of the living, of both pas- 
sengers and crew, revealed that 1,347 men, 103 women, and 53 
children had perished; while 315 men, 336 women, and 52 children 
had been saved. 

These figures indicated the supreme sacrifice made by the men 
who had stood aside on the Titanic's decks to allow women and 
children to enter the lifeboats. 

There was no reflection of wrong conduct on the men who had 
survived in the boats. Some, including crew members, had been 
ordered to go to handle the boats. Others had been allowed to go 
or had jumped in when boats were being lowered only partly 
filled with women and children. Others had been picked up from 
the water. 

Among the men who had perished were the Master of the 
Titanic, Captain Smith; her chief officer, H. F. Wilde and First 
Officer Murdock, who had been on watch on the bridge when 
the collision occurred. 

Her First Wireless Operator J. G. Phillips, had gone down, but 
the Junior Operator, Harold Bride, was saved. 

The passengers who had perished included the millionaires 
Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, Martin Rothschild, Isidor 
Straus, Charles Hays, William Dulles, Frederick Hoyt, Clarence 
Moore, Emil Taussig, J. B. Thayer, Washington Roebling, and 
Harry Widener; the famous journalist, W. T. Stead; the theatri- 
cal manager, Henry Harris; President Taft's adviser, Major Archie 
Butt; the artist Frank Millet . , . and the many more . . . 

Among the survivors were Bruce Ismay, who, according to evi- 
dence, had jumped into a boat that was being lowered half empty; 
Henry Harper, the publisher; Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon; Baron 
von Drachstedt; Colonel Archibald Gracie; and others who had 

306 



taken a proper opportunity to jump into boats, or had been picked 
up from the water. 

The survivors were given immediate care and attention by our 
three doctors and by the stewards and passengers. Intense activity 
was going on, as the stewards found berths for the survivors. 

Our first- and second-class passengers, and all the officers in the 
Carpathia, willingly gave up their cabins to women and children, 
and moved below to the third-class cabins. 

In the meantime the Titanic's boats were being hauled up to 
the Carpathia. Our own boats, which were swung out on davits, 
had not been lowered. They were now returned to the chocks. 
Six of the Titanic's boats were hoisted up to the Carpathian's fore- 
deck, and seven were carried slung overside in davits. This was 
all that we could conveniently hoist and stow. The others were 
set adrift. 

When Lightoller's boat came alongside, the survivors previously 
taken on board knew finally the extent of their bereavements. 
If their loved ones were not in that boat, they had perished. At 
that moment seventy-five of the married women among the sur- 
vivors, who had dared to cling to hope, had to face the fact that 
they were widowed, and that their children were orphaned. Others 
learned that a son or a father had gone. The extinction of hope 
came as a shock too terrible for the relief of weeping. The minds 
of the bereaved were numbed. There were no words that could 
comfort them. Anguish was silent. There was no hysteria. There 
was only a pall of unutterable grief, and a dazed staring from eyes 
of bewildered incredulity. 



307 





CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR 



The " Calif ornian" Arrives Belatedly A Ter- 
rible Awakening Divine Service Held Ghosts 
of the Atlantic Tracks "Carpathia" Heads for 
New York Getting Free of the Icefield Sur- 
vivors' Narratives Complicated Causes of the 
Disaster How the Collison Occurred A Split 
Second Calamity The Web of Fate. 



WHILE we had been picking up the survivors, in the slowly in- 
creasing daylight after 4.30 A.M., we had sighted the smoke of a 
steamer on the fringe of the pack ice, ten miles away from us to 
the northwards. She was making no signals, and we paid little 
attention to her, for we were preoccupied with more urgent mat- 
ters; but at 6 A.M. we had noticed that she was under way and 
slowly coming toward us. 

When I took over the watch on the bridge of the Carpathia at 
8 A.M., the stranger was little more than a mile from us, and flying 
her signals of identification. She was the Leyland Line cargo 
steamer Calif ornian, which had been stopped overnight, blocked 
by ice. 

Now she steamed up to within half a mile from the Carpathia 
and stopped. An officer, on the wing of her bridge, using hand- 
flags, signaled, "What's the matter?" 

308 



By Captain Rostron's order, I replied, with handflags, "Titanic 
hit berg and sank here with loss of fifteen hundred lives. Have 
picked up all her boats with seven hundred survivors. Please stay 
in vicinity to search for bodies." 

This was the first exact information received by the Calif ornian 
of the disaster that had occurred on her horizon, within an hour's 
steaming range if she had gone to the rescue. 

Many excuses were subsequently put forward to explain why 
the Master and officers of this 6,000-ton steamer had so tragically 
failed to rise to the opportunity which had been theirs of saving 
the lives of perhaps every person in the Titanic. 

There had been no willful neglect on their part, but rather a 
deficiency of seamanlike reactions in extremely unusual circum- 
stances. Her Captain had been careful for the safety of his own 
ship when he had stopped her for the night at the edge of the pack 
ice. He had done the right thing in ordering his wireless operator 
to send out ice warnings, and a broadcast notification that he was 
stopped for the night. 

The Calif ornian, with her port and starboard lights, and white 
masthead light, and stern and bow lights burning brightly, had 
been in no danger of collision or of being rammed as she lay at 
a standstill in midocean, surrounded by pack ice, on a dear and 
frosty night, with no wind, and a smooth sea. She was snug, and 
there was no need to keep a sharp lookout. Her engines were 
stopped, and her fires banked, to keep a low head of steam up 
until the morning. Her Captain, officers, engineers, and crew 
could relax. Most of them had gone to bed early. 

Watches had been kept on her bridge throughout the night, but 
they had been standby watches, with nothing much for the officers 
to do. At 11 P.M., the Wireless Operator (Evans) had gone to bed. 
He knew that the Titanic was near, though she was not then in 
sight. At this time also the Captain turned in. At 11.10, the Third 
Officer, who was on watch, saw the lights of a big liner, westward 
bound, on the southern horizon. 

At 11.40, as the Titanic struck the berg, she had veered to port. 
This meant that her deck lights had suddenly become almost in- 
visible to the Third Officer of the Californian. He surmised that 

309 



the deck lights had been dimmed, to encourage the passengers to 
go to bed. 

The Third Officer had been relieved at midnight by the Second 
Officer and an apprentice. They noticed the masthead and side 
lights of the distant liner, which they assumed was heading south- 
westwards to get clear of the icefield. 

At that moment, the Titanic was beginning to sink by the head. 
The watchers in the Calif ornian thought that she was dipping be- 
low the horizon. Later, the Second Officer noticed that the disap- 
pearing liner was firing rockets at intervals. He went below, at 
1.15 A.M., woke his Captain, and informed him of this. The Cap- 
tain drowsily asked, "Are they company signals?" 

This was one of the most tragic moments of that fateful night. 
Rockets were the well-known signals of distress, but some of the 
big shipping companies were in the habit of using Roman candles 
combinations of colored fireworks, which resemble rockets as 
signals of identification for their ships, especially when approach- 
ing Light Vessels or Shore Signal Stations or the entrances to ports, 
but also at sea when passing other ships at nighttime, at a distance 
beyond easy visual range for morse-lamp signaling. 

This was a practice which should never have been allowed, es- 
pecially after all big ships were equipped with wireless. The use 
of fireworks should have been restricted to signals of distress. Con- 
fusion could arise, and, in fact did arise, tragically, when the 
Titanic's rocket signals of distress were mistakenly believed by the 
Captain and the Second Officer of the Californian to be "only 
company signals." 

That error of judgment was one of many such in the net of cir- 
cumstances that dragged the Titanic to her doom. 

On the Captain's drowsily murmured instructions, the Second 
Officer had tried to signal to the liner with a morse lamp, but had 
failed to get a response. This was not surprising, as the officers of 
the Titanic were at that time occupied in lowering the lifeboats. 

When the Titanic sank at 2.20 A.M., the Second Officer of the 
Californian thought that she had finally dipped below the horizon, 
going away to the southwestwards. If she had not veered to port 
after striking the berg, he would not have made this tragic error 

310 



of observation. His view of the sinking ship had been stern on, at 
nighttime, in the "graveyard watch," from ten miles away -and 
in those circumstances there was some excuse for his wrong think- 
ing. 

The Chief Officer of the Californian had relieved the Second 
Officer at the 4 A.M. change of the watch. Informed that a big ship, 
which was now out of sight, had fired rockets two hours previously, 
he became concerned and puzzled. The Second Officer remarked 
that he had also sighted rockets or company signals from a differ- 
ent vessel in the distance to the southeastward. (These had been 
fired from the Carpathia.) 

At 5 A.M., the Chief Officer had awakened Wireless Operator 
Evans, who sleepily switched on his radio apparatus, and presently 
heard the startling news from the German steamer Frankfort, and 
later from the Canadian Pacific SS. Mount Temple, that the 
Titanic was believed sunk. 

At this time the Carpathia was picking up boats, but not trans- 
mitting wireless signals. Our operator was awaiting orders from 
Captain Rostron, who, like everybody else in the Carpathia, was 
preoccupied with the rescue work. 

The Captain of the Californian, sighting the Carpathia stopped 
ten miles to his southward, had got under way at 6 A.M., headed 
toward us, and, in two hours of cautious navigation among the 
icefloes and bergs, came near enough to us for handfiag signaling 
at 8 A.M. 

So he learned that, while he had slept snug, fifteen hundred 
people, whom he could have saved, had drowned. Yet, on analysis 
of the evidence given at the subsequent official inquiries, it be- 
came clear that heavy blame for their inertia could not be placed 
personally on the drowsy mariners of the Californian. There were 
excuses for their faulty reasoning at each stage. The blame lay 
on shipowners generally, for not having realized that one wire- 
less operator in a steamer was not enough. 

When the last castaways from the Titanic came on board the 
Carpathia at 8.30 A.M., Captain Rostron had a difficult decision 

311 



to make. Should he remain to pick up dead bodies? Should he 
proceed, through ice, to the nearest port, Halifax? Should he con- 
tinue his voyage, and land the survivors at the Azores or Gibraltar? 
Or should he return to New York, a run of four days, to land 
them at their originally intended destination, delaying the Car- 
pathia's voyage-schedule by eight or nine days? 

Or should he make a rendezvous by wireless with the Titanic's 
sister ship, Olympic, and transfer the survivors to her ... at sea 
. . , with the lifeboats? 

It did not take Captain Rostron very long to arrive at the cor- 
rect decision to return to New York! 

The survivors had suffered more than enough. To remain there 
to pick up dead bodies from the sea would have added to the 
anguish of the widows and orphans and others bereaved. To search 
for, pick up, identify and rebury in the sea fifteen hundred 
corpses would be a lengthy, agonizing, and ultimately futile pro- 
cedure. 

Among the Carpathian's passengers was an American Episcopa- 
lian Minister. Captain Rostron asked him to conduct Divine Serv- 
ice in memory of the dead, and in thanksgiving for the rescue of 
the living. This service was held in the first-class lounge, while 
the Carpathia slowly made a circuit of the "island" of wreckage 
which marked the spot where the Titanic had gone down. 

From the bridge, I sighted only one dead body. It was of a young 
man, semisubmerged, with his lifebelt on, seemingly asleep in 
the water, lying on his side. We did not stop to pick him up. 

Most of the passengers and crew of the Carpathia, and some of 
the survivors of the Titanic, were crowding the deckrails, to stare 
overside. Some stated later that they saw many bodies. They may 
have done so, or what they saw may have been floe-ice or wreckage. 
The Captain gave me an order, "Bear away from the wreckage 
southwesterly. . . ." 

The Calif ornian was standing by, and was now in wireless com- 
munication with us. Captain Rostron sent a wireless signal to her: 
"I am taking the survivors to New York. Please stay in the vicinity 
and pick up any bodies/ 1 

This was acknowledged by the Calif ornian. At 9 A.M., in bright 

312 



sunshine, we were steaming at full speed to the southwestward, 
away from that scene of death, with our load of sorrow the be- 
reaved, the shocked, the mind-numbed, humbly thankful to be 
alive. 

An hour later, we received a wireless signal from the Master of 
the Calif ornian: "I have not found any bodies, and I am resuming 
my voyage." 

Being bound from London to Boston, he was evidently desirous 
of making as much progress as possible through the icefield by day- 
light, and could scarcely be blamed for that decision. 

If he had remained on the scene of the disaster and attemtped 
to pick up the bodies from the water, no useful purpose would 
have been served. It would probably have taken him a fortnight 
to find them all. His ship would have become a floating morgue. 
He would have had no means of identifying the bodies. If he took 
them to Boston for inquests and earth burial, the identifications 
would still be difficult and perhaps impossible in most cases. All 
that he could have done in practice would have been to recommit 
the bodies to the deep. It was better, then, to leave them where 
they were, undisturbed. 

Unweighted, and in most cases buoyed by life jackets, the bodies 
of the Titanic's dead the celebrities, the lesser-known, and the 
humble unknown to fame were flotsam in the wide Atlantic for 
weeks, and some, it was believed, for months after the disaster. 

A cable-laying ship, the SS. Mackay-Bennett, went out from 
Halifax two weeks afterwards, and picked up 205 bodies, which 
were given religious burial; but this was the utmost that could be 
done for piety's sake. The mail steamers for many months gave 
the region of the floating dead a wide berth; the Atlantic tracks 
were haunted, and, even to this day, shipmasters steer clear of the 
place where the Titanic sank. 

As the Carpathia steamed to the southwestward with her load 
of sorrow, we passed dozens of icebergs in the first three hours, fre- 
quently changing course to avoid colliding with them, before we 
were able to set course for New York, in open water, after taking 
sights of the sun at noon, in lat. 40 deg. 45 min. N. 

313 



I have never since seen, and never wished to see, so much ice as 
I had seen that day, so far south in the Atlantic. The early thaw, 
which had set this field of vast extent adrift, was one of the many 
unusual circumstances of the Titanic fatality. But, as a direct re- 
sult of that disaster, the International Ice Patrol was established 
(in 1913) to survey and keep constant watch on all ice movements, 
and to warn shipping of them. Thereafter, the tracks of shipping 
in the North Atlantic were laid down by international agreement, 
to eliminate all risks of collisions with ice. Experience had been 
gained, but at a tragic price. 

At the change of the watch at noon, when I handed over the 
course and details to First Officer Dean, I was dog-tired, after hav- 
ing been practically sixteen hours on duty throughout that night 
and morning of strenuous anxieties. All the ship's people in the 
Carpathia had been likewise under the stress and strain of excep- 
tional duties and the poignant emotion that hung over the ship 
like a pall. I went below for a meal, and then to sleep in a bunk in 
a third-class cabin to which my dunnage had been transferred, 
when my cabin below the bridge had been willingly given up to 
one of the bereaved women survivors. 

But restful sleep was impossible. I could only doze fitfully. At 
4 P.M., I went up on deck, and talked to some of the survivors, in- 
cluding the three rescued officers, who were also finding sleep im- 
possible. From them I learned how and why the "unsinkable" ship 
had sunk. It had been a tragedy of errors, but those errors were a 
combination of fatal circumstances utterly unlikely ever to hap- 
pen again. That was the crux of this disaster. It should not have 
happened . . . but it did happen I 

According to what I was told that day, by the men who knew 
the facts, while their impressions and mine were only too vivid, 
it appeared that the odds against any repetition of such a calamity 
at sea were so great that we could only feel awed at the magnitude 
of the mischance. 

The Titanic had been belting along at twenty-two-and-a-half 
knots when the lookout man in the crow's nest sighted the berg, 
dead ahead. He sounded his gong three times, and then telephoned 
his warning to the bridge. 

314 



First Officer Murdock received this warning, and gave the order 
to the helmsman, "Hard-a-starboard." This order was in accord- 
ance with the prevailing practice, a legacy of tradition that is, 
from the days when helm orders referred to the tiller, as used in 
open boats and small ships, before steering wheels were intro- 
duced. In other words, the order "hard-a-starboard" meant, "Put 
your tiller over to the starboard side, hard, as far as it will go." 

That was how this order was applied in British ships in 1912. (It 
continued to bear that meaning until a new practice was intro- 
duced on January 1, 1933.) Helmsmen understood that, on receiv- 
ing the order, "Hard-a-starboard," they must put the wheel to 
port, thereby putting the tiller to starboard, and the rudder to 
port, causing the ship's head to go to port. 

When Murdock gave the order, "Hard-a-starboard," the helms- 
man at the wheel of the Titanic reacted correctly, and the ship's 
head began to pay off to port. 

The ship then had the iceberg on her starboard bow, but, as 
she passed close by it, the submerged part of the berg (comprising 
seven-eighths, of the berg's bulk), protruding invisibly under wa- 
ter, scraped heavily along the Titanic's starboard side, opening up 
her hull plates on that side in a gash extending below her water- 
line for 300 feet from the fore peak, for approximately one-third 
of the ship's length. 

Murdock immediately rang the engines to Stop and then Full 
Astern, until the liner came to a standstill half a mile past the 
berg. He also pressed the control button that electrically closed 
the doors in the watertight bulkheads. The time was 11.40 P.M. 
Captain Smith came on to the bridge immediately, and ordered 
soundings to be taken in the holds forward as the ship began to 
settle down slowly by the head. 

Inspection revealed that water was pouring into the six forward 
watertight compartments, gaining on the pumps which had been 
started without delay. There were sixteen watertight compart- 
ments in the ship, but the bulkheads had not been carried up to 
the deckheads. Consequently, as each compartment flooded, wa- 
ter poured over from it into the next compartment aft. Captain 
Smith then knew that his ship was doomed. He ordered the first 

315 



wireless distress signal to be sent out at 00.15 A.M., the first rockets 
fired at 00.45 A.M., and at that time also gave the order to lower 
the lifeboats, with "women and children first." 

The last boat was lowered at 2.05 A.M., and the ship sank at 
2.20 A.M. She had remained afloat for two hours and forty minutes 
after striking the berg. 

As the ship had collided with the berg not head on, but had 
struck it a glancing blow with her starboard bow, it was evident 
that the disaster had been caused by a split-second mistiming in 
the alteration of her course. That is, if her head had paid off to 
port for another ten, or, at most, say twenty feet, she would have 
avoided striking the underwater base or "platform" of the berg. 

A speed of 22% knots (say 25.9 statute miles per hour) is equiva- 
lent to approximately 2,280 feet per minute, or 38 feet per second. 
Assuming that the berg was sighted exactly half a mile dead ahead, 
there would be one minute and 9i/ 2 seconds in which to avoid a 
head-on collision. In smaller steamers, which traveled at speeds of 
from 11 to 15 knots, the time margin between the first sighting of 
a berg and the alteration of course to avoid collision was corre- 
spondingly increased to as much as two minutes, which was ample 
for maneuvering when a sharp lookout was kept and alert men 
were on the bridge. 

It was therefore safe enough, in practice, to proceed at eleven 
knots, in an ice region, even in darkness, when night-visibility 
was good; but it was not safe for a vessel of the bulk of the Titanic 
to proceed at 22% knots among bergs, 'when the sea was smooth 
and there was no surf breaking around the base of the bergs to as- 
sist the lookout man to sight them. 

A vessel of 46,000 tons, traveling at 22% knots, develops a tre- 
mendous momentum through the water. The surge of her propel- 
lers, with violent disturbance of the water under her stern, caus- 
ing the stern to press downwards, may interfere with her responses 
to movements of her rudder, making her slow in paying off when 
the helm is put hard-a-starboard or hard-a-port, unless her de- 
signers have allowed for this factor in the design and size of the 
rudder. 

The Cunarder Mauretania was famous for her maneuverability 

316 



at full speed. She answered her helm instantly in all conditions; 
but this quality was not built into the Olympic and the Titanic. 
They were clumsy ships. There was too much brag and not enough 
seaworthy performance in their construction. But in seafaring, as 
in every other human activity, men may learn from experiences 
that are sometimes dire. 

The immediate cause, or causes, of the Titanic's collision with 
the iceberg, then, allowing that her speed of 22i/% knots had to be 
maintained for publicity purposes on this maiden voyage, could be 
analyzed as an unforeseen delayed reaction, or delayed reactions, 
that occurred in altering her course to port during the time margin 
of one minute and nine seconds that would normally have elapsed 
between the first sighting of the berg and her passing it abeam. 

During that fateful sixty-nine seconds, the following sequence 
of events took place: (1) the lookout man sighted the berg; (2) he 
struck his bell three times; (3) he telephoned to the bridge; (4) First 
Officer Murdock answered the telephone; (5) Murdock gave the 
order to the helmsman, "Hard-a-starboard"; (6) the helmsman 
obeyed the order; (7) the ship's tiller went to starboard, and her 
rudder to port; (8) the ship's head paid off to port; (9) the starboard 
bow struck the underwater ice and scraped along it for 300 feet of 
the ship's side, with sufficient force to open the hull plates, and 
then the ship veered off from the ice amidships. 

Somewhere in this sequence of events there was a delay, or there 
were cumulative delays, amounting to a loss of a fractional period 
of time, perhaps not more than one or two seconds, which would 
have been sufficient, at the liner's speed of 38 feet per second, to 
enable her to clear the obstruction or to reduce its impact to a 
minor glancing blow. 

That was the element of Fate in the Titanic disaster. Blind Fate 
had snipped the life-threads of all those people in one tick of the 
clock . . . like THAT1 

But it would be grossly unfair to place the sole responsibility for 
this colossal tragedy on the lookout man, the Officer of the Watch, 
the helmsman, or even on the Captain even though, in fact and 
in law, the Captain must bear the burden of blame when any mis- 

317 



hap occurs in his ship which could have been avoided by timely 
precautions . . * 

As Captain Smith, and also First Officer Murdock, had gone 
down with the ship, they had atoned for any errors of judgment 
which might have been ascribed to them. 

Their view of the sequence of events could never be ascertained; 
but this disaster was too tremendous to be explained away by find- 
ing one scapegoat, or two, or three, to bear the brunt of the blame. 
It could be explained, and was explained ultimately, as the fatal 
culmination of a long and complicated sequence of interrelated 
causes which lay deep in human nature itself the errors of judg- 
ment made by many fallible men, in greater and lesser degrees of 
responsibility. 

In the beginning was the brag. That was one of the prime causes 
of this fatality; for, if there had not been so much extravagant 
publicity, claiming that the Titanic was "the biggest ship in the 
world ... the most luxurious ship ever built ... the unsink- 
able ship . . . ," and so on, then more attention might have been 
given to seamanlike considerations, of which safety at sea is by far 
the most important. 

It would have been better for the Titanic to have arrived behind 
schedule in New York than never to have arrived at all; but her 
Captain took the responsibility of driving on at forced full speed 
into the icefield, to save a few hours of time on the passage, instead 
of reducing speed during the hours of darkness, or navigating on 
a longer course to skirt the icefield to the southwards. 

Wisdom after the event is sad wisdom. The directors of the 
White Star Line had become bemused by their own propaganda. 
They believed that this ship was "unsinkable." A publicity catch- 
word had warped their judgment of reality. This happens often 
in politics, with dire results, especially in international relations; 
but words are no substitute for facts. 

// this giant ship had been built with a double hull, instead of a 
single hull, a glancing blow from an iceberg would not have sunk 
her. // she had four propellers instead of three, she could have 
developed sufficient speed to take the longer course, southward of 
the ice, without losing too much time. 

318 



Granting the decision to run through the icefield, if she had a 
powerful searchlight, the bergs could have been sighted more 
easily. Without a searchlight, if extra lookouts had been stationed 
on the wings of the bridge, to give oral warnings directly and not 
by telephone, the vital moments of time would have been gained. 
// her rudder had been designed to function more efficiently at full 
speed, she would have veered to port more sharply. 

// her watertight bulkheads had been carried by her builders up 
to the deckheads, she would have remained afloat until rescue 
vessels had time to come up. 

If, instead of relying only on distress signals by wireless and 
rockets, she had signaled persistently to the Calif ornian with a 
Morse lamp, beginning a few minutes after the collision, such 
signals would most probably have been answered. 

// the Calif ornian had carried two wireless operators, instead of 
only one, the SOS would almost certainly have been heard in that 
ship only ten miles away. 

When it came to launching the boats, if more boats and rafts 
had been provided, and if there had been boat drill, more lives 
would have been saved . . . 

These were contingencies which the foresight, not of any one 
man, but of the many concerned, could have met; but, because so 
much was neglected by so many, the tragedy of the Titanic had the 
inevitability of a decree of Fate. It was the first big shock in the 
modern era to remind us that nothing made and managed by 
human hands is perfect; that mechanical progress has limitations; 
and that the Unforeseen is always likely to curb man's most grandi- 
ose strivings. 



319 



CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE 



Return of the "Carpathia" The Survivors' Sto- 
ries The "Titanic's" Band Anxiety in New 
York We Arrive at Sandy Hook A Bedlam of 
Questions Pratique "Gee, What a Story! 9 ' 
The Yellow Press New York in Mourning Re- 
wards and Medals End of This Volume. 



AS the Carpathia steamed on westwards, making for New York, 
she was a gloomy and silent ship. No one smiled. The usual ship- 
board jollity was entirely extinguished. People walked around or 
sat in silence, or conversed in subdued tones, almost in whispers. 
Everyone was numbed by shock. The faces of widows, tense and 
pale, their eyes staring in despair as they gazed to seaward, ex- 
pressed grief inconsolable; but almost every one of the survivors 
was bereaved, if not of relatives, then of friends. They had been in 
the presence of a supreme sacrifice, and they knew it; for now each 
person who had survived was acutely aware of the splendid gal- 
lantry of those who had held back from the boats and gone down 
with the ship. 

When the last of the lifeboats had been lowered, there had re- 
mained on board the sinking ship 1,390 men, 103 women, and 53 
children. 

Some of the women passengers had deliberately refused to go 

320 



into the lifeboats. They chose to remain with their menfolk to the 
end. With them also stayed their children. It is possible that some 
of the women who made this choice did not believe that the ship 
would sink. Others, and some of the men, may have been 
"trapped" down below, on the lower decks, by the closing of the 
doors in the watertight bulkheads, and had been unable to find 
the escape ladders that led upwards from each compartment. 

Of the women who perished, five were first-class passengers, 
fifteen second-class, eighty-one third-dass; and two stewardesses. 
The first- and second-class passengers, being nearest to the boat 
decks, had easy opportunities of entering the boats. All the chil- 
dren in the first and second dass were saved. The fifty-three 
children who perished were all in the third dass on the lower decks. 

Of the men who perished, 115 were first-dass passengers, 147 
second-dass, 399 third-class, and 686 of the crew. 

The men (and another 43 who were later picked up in the water, 
making a total of 1,390 men) had all stood aside on the decks when 
the lifeboats were lowered, in obedience to the cry that was taken 
up and repeated from one end of the ship to the other: "Women 
and children firstl" 

In the final fifteen minutes before the ship sank, after the last of 
the boats had been lowered, these men thronged the upper decks, 
calmly and silently awaiting death. There they stood, millionaires 
and working-dass men of many nationalities, seamen, stewards, 
firemen, and trimmers, shoulder to shoulder, in the equality, unity, 
and brotherhood of the total unselfishness which each and every 
one of them deliberately accepted as necessary. 

There was no panic. When the Titanic was in her death throes, 
everything that is admirable and superb in human nature came 
to the fore. This was what made the survivors, and everyone else in 
the Carpathia when the facts were known, feel dazed, in silent, 
bewildered reverence and humility, with a feeling of pride, too, 
that so many men, of so many different kinds, had responded to 
death's imminent threat with courage and dignity. 

Typical of this courage was the behavior of the men of the 
Titanic'* orchestra of eight musicians. They had been playing the 
usual shipboard light music earlier in the evening, finishing at 

321 



11 P.M.; but, when the ship struck, they assembled again in the 
first-class lounge, and began playing popular tunes, as though to 
assure the passengers that all was well. 

Even while the boats were being lowered, the lively melodies of 
Yip-I-Addy-I-Aye and Alexander's Ragtime Band encouraged the 
people to remain cheerful. The bandmaster, Wallace Hartley, had 
previously been in the Mauretania, and had made hundreds of 
crossings of the Atlantic. Two others, Theodore Brailey, pianist, 
and Roger Bricoux, cellist (a Frenchman), had belonged to the 
small orchestra in the Carpathia, and had left her in Liverpool 
only two months previously. The first violin, Jock Hume, was a 
Scot from Dumfries; the bass viol, Fred Clarke, was a Liverpool 
man. George Krius and Percy Taylor were Londoners, and Jack 
Woodward was from Oxfordshire. 

These eight musicians continued playing cheerful tunes, until 
the water flooded around their ankles. Then, as their final number, 
and adieu to life, they played the hymn, Autumn, after the last 
boat had been lowered. Every man in that brave little band went 
down with the ship, and perished. 

Captain Smith, with Chief Officer Wilde, First Officer Murdock, 
and Second Officer Lightoller, stood on the bridge as the ship went 
down. She was sinking by the head, at a steep slant, with the stern 
high in the air. Men on the decks moved aft as the waters engulfed 
her forward. Some jumped overboard and began to swim away. 
Others, perhaps unable to swim, were crowded on the poop as the 
weight of water flooding below decks overcame the ship's remain- 
ing buoyancy, and she glided at a steep angle, to founder head 
first, while a wall of water swept along the decks, washing hun- 
dreds of people overboard, at her stern. These were almost all 
drawn down by the suction which followed the ship to the deeps. 

Second Officer Lightoller had survived by a miracle. He had 
stepped from the bridge into the water, and attempted to swim 
away, but was almost immediately dragged under by the suction 
of water cascading through the fiddley (gratings) of one of the 
engine-rooms abaft the bridge. He was brought hard against the 
gratings of the fiddley, and held there under the weight of water 
pouring through, when suddenly, as the boiler-room filled, a great 

322 



bubble of air and warm water, expelled by the dowsing of the 
furnaces, blurted through the fiddley from below, like a geyser. 
Its eruptive force carried Lightoller with it away from the side of 
the ship as she went down. 

Being a strong swimmer, he struck out vigorously in the dark- 
ness, and by chance came upon one of the rafts ("collapsible boats") 
which had not been launched but had floated overboard. It was 
overturned, and men were scrambling onto its keel. In all, thirty 
swimmers succeeded in getting onto this raft. 

It was a perilous safety, as the raft was awash, but one of the 
bigger lifeboats, which already held forty-five people, came over 
and took the thirty men from the raft. Lightoller then took com- 
mand of this boat, and eventually brought it to the Carpathian 
side. 

These, and the many other stories which the survivors had to 
tell of their experiences, made the Carpathia a ship of sorrow and 
wonderment. We, who had merely hastened to the rescue, were 
now aware that chance had made us play our unrehearsed role 
in the final scenes of one of the greatest sea tragedies of all time 
great not only in the leviathan size of the ship that had gone down, 
and in the numbers who had perished, but also in its revelation of 
the workings of chance and mischance, and of the mysterious 
powers of Fate in human affairs. 

This was a fatality unparalleled, illuminating the vanity of 
human wishes and the power of courage in extreme adversity. No 
wonder, then, that the people of two continents, and beyond 
throughout the world, informed only briefly of the fact that the 
Titanic had sunk, with heavy loss of life, were now eagerly await- 
ing the details of that tragedy, which only the survivors in the 
Carpathia could divulge. 

The Carpathia was a crowded ship, with 1,740 souls on board. 
At 4 A.M. on Tuesday, when few people were on deck, Captain 
Rostron read the burial service over the four bodies we had picked 
up, and they were reconsigned to the deep. 

The Purser and his assistants had by this time completed com- 

323 



piling and checking an exact list of the survivors that we had on 
board. The Captain instructed our wireless operator (Harold Cot- 
tarn) to transmit this list as a marconigram, via Cape Race, to the 
office of the White Star Line in New York. The utmost accuracy 
was required, as the transmission of a list of survivors implied that 
those whose names were not included in that list had perished. 

Unfortunately, our radio apparatus had a range of only 150 
miles. Cottam could hear signals from Cape Race, but his messages 
were not getting through clearly. Hundreds of marconigrams were 
being sent out from Cape Race, and other shore stations, addressed 
to the Master of the Carpathia, from anxious relatives and friends 
of passengers in the Titanic, inquiring if this person or that had 
been rescued. Press telegrams in dozens were demanding details, 
and offering large sums in payment for exclusive news. 

To make the situation more difficult, many of the survivors on 
board were asking Cottam to transmit marconigrams to their 
friends and relatives on shore, announcing that they were saved. 
Conditions in the radio shack became almost chaotic, as Cottam 
found it impossible to "clear the air" in the welter of signals that 
cluttered it from shore stations and other ships. But he worked 
on and on, to the limit of his endurance, with no sleep for two or 
three days and nights, sending and receiving, until the Junior 
Wireless Operator of the Titanic, young Harold Bride who, 
though rescued, was injured and suffering from shock and expo- 
sure was able to give him standby help while he snatched an 
hour's sleep now and then. 

The Captain had strictly ordered that no news stories should be 
transmitted to the press. He realized that there would be an official 
inquiry into the disaster, and that evidence would be taken on 
oath to ascertain the facts. The press statements should come, not 
from him, but from the White Star office. Fortunately, Cottam 
was able to make fairly good radio contact with the White Star 
Olympic, as her course was converging to ours. Presently she was 
within 100 miles, or less, and the full list of survivors was trans- 
mitted to her, and relayed to the White Star office in New York. 

This discharged Captain Rostron's responsibilities in that as- 
pect of the matter; but otherwise it became practically impossible 

324 



for Cottam to cope with the deluge of signals or to answer the 
inquiries. Newspapermen in New York, unaware of his difficulties 
and of the weak range of his apparatus, became annoyed, and un- 
fairly suggested that a "censorship" had been imposed on news, 
for some sinister purpose vaguely hinted at. 

The White Star office released the news, received per the Olym- 
pic, in time for publication in the New York evening papers on 
Tuesday. It was to the effect that 1,800 persons had probably 
perished, and that 675 were saved, mostly women and children. 
We in the Carpathia had no means of knowing the intense excite- 
ment that this announcement would cause in New York and 
throughout America and the wider world. 

The passenger lists of the Titanic having already been cabled 
from Southampton, emphasising the names of the multimillion- 
aires and other celebrities on board, the first scrappy news received 
stunned New York with the prospect that so many people of na- 
tional and international fame had perished. 

As the truth of this surmise was gradually established by elimina- 
tion of names such as those of Astor and Guggenheim from the 
published lists of the survivors, the excitement in New York 
mounted almost to a pitch of hysteria. Every newspaper printed 
full front-page stories and supplementary pages of news, descrip- 
tions of the Titanic, biographies of the presumed dead, and came 
out with black borders and pictures (drawn from imagination by 
staff artists), while declaring unreservedly that the wreck of the 
Titanic was "the world's greatest marine horror." 

The arrival of the Carpathia in New York was awaited with 
tense anxiety and impatience. Then our passage was delayed as 
we ran into a thick fog near Nantucket Shoals, and had to grope 
our way for hours at dead slow with our steam whistle eerily blar- 
ing. 

On Thursday afternoon, April 18, the fog lifted, and at 6 P.M. 
we had Sandy Hook Light Vessel abeam, at the entrance to New 
York Harbor. Here for the first time we had an indication of the 
tremendous reception that awaited us. A fleet of more than fifty 
small craft, including tugs, ferry boats, steam launches, and yachts, 

325 



crowded with newspaper reporters and photographers, relatives 
and friends of the dead and of the survivors, and adventurers who 
were merely urged by curiosity, converged toward the Carpathia 
as an unwanted escort for the pilot boat. 

Captain Rostron gave the order, "Nobody to be allowed on 
board except the Pilot." 

This was necessary to avoid confusion and delay at quarantine 
and the customs, and also to protect the survivors of the Titanic 
from being harassed. 

We were "on stations" for entering port. My station as Second 
Officer was on the bridge, while the Chief Officer was stationed at 
the bows, and the First Officer and Third Officer were at the stern. 

The Third Officer (Rees) had the duty of receiving the Pilot on 
board. For this purpose the accommodation ladder had been 
rigged, and was lowered as the pilot boat came alongside. 

When the Carpathia came to a standstill, the tugs, ferries, steam 
launches, and yachts clustered around her, their occupants ex- 
pecting that we would lower gangways to allow them on board. 
When they realized that this would not be allowed, pandemonium 
broke out. They came in close, singing out questions, some through 
megaphones, in a deafening clamor of confusion; some holding up 
wads of dollar bills in an attempt to bribe people lining the 
Carpathian deckrails to lower ladders or ropes overside, or to 
answer questions for publication, giving details of the Titanic's 
death plunge and its causes and sequels. The officers stationed on 
deck, with our boatswains, seamen, and masters-at-arms, had a 
busy time fending these "pirates" off. 

In the meantime, Third Officer Rees, at the accommodation 
ladder, was having a lively time. Five newspaper reporters had 
somehow managed to get into the pilot boat. Rees went down to 
the bottom of the ladder, and stood by as the boat came alongside. 
"Pilot only!" he warned. 

The five newsmen attempted to get on to the ladder ahead of 

the pilot, but Rees, a strongly built man, fended them off, and, 

when they persisted, had to use force, giving one or two of them a 

sock on the jaw. 

Then one of the reporters used a stratagem. He put soap or some 

326 



similar substance into his mouth, and began frothing at the mouth, 
screaming hysterically, "Oh! My poor sister! My sister is on board! 
I must see her! Let me up, Mister, and I'll give you a hundred 
bucks." 

"No/ 1 said Rees. 

"Two hundred bucks!" 

"No. Stand back. Captain's orders. Pilot only!" 

Neither rush tactics, nor frothing at the mouth, nor bribes 
availed. Rees got the pilot onto the ladder, waited until he was on 
board, then followed him quickly up, as the ladder was hoisted, 
leaving the frustrated newshawks in the boat, putting on a re- 
markable exhibition of profanity. 

As soon as the Pilot was on the bridge, our engines were rung to 
Full Ahead, and we steamed through the channels of the entrance 
shoals, and into the Lower Bay, followed and accompanied abeam 
by our escorting fleet, some of the small craft continuing to range 
alongside, as reporters continued their efforts to "get the story" 
in megaphone interviews. 

At the Narrows we stopped in quarantine, and were boarded by 
the Immigration Department's officials and doctors. The inspec- 
tion was a mere formality, as pratique was granted without medical 
examination of the survivors individually. This was a humane 
gesture in the circumstances. Darkness had now set in, with driz- 
zling rain, as we proceeded into the Upper Bay. 

Near the Statue of Liberty, a Cunard tug came out to assist us 
to our berth. The tugmaster had instructions from the Marine 
Superintendent that we should stop near the White Star Pier and 
lower the Titanic 9 s lifeboats. We had six of these on our foredeck 
and seven slung overside in davits. These boats suspended over- 
side might have interfered with our docking, and were therefore 
better got rid of. They were the only material salvage o the 
Titanic. 

As we passed Battery Point, we saw a crowd of people congre- 
gated there in the rain. It was estimated in the newspapers next 
day that 10,000 people waited for hours at the Battery to see the 
Carpathia arrive. What they saw was "the impressive sight of the 
rescue ship steaming up the Harbor, brightly lit, with boats hang- 

327 



ing overside, and sparks flying from her funnel," as one newspaper 
report described the scene. 

We stopped near the White Star Pier and lowered the Titanic'* 
boats those off the foredeck by derrick, and the others with our 
davits. It was now 8.40 P.M., New York time. On the Captain's or- 
ders, I left the bridge to supervise the lowering of the boats. Men 
had come off from the White Star Pier in a launch, which took the 
boats in tow and brought them into the dock. Each boat had the 
name TITANIC painted on it. They had reached their destina- 
tion. 

Small craft continued to throng around us. Photographers ig- 
nited magnesium flares as the boats were lowered. 

When I returned to the bridge, after an absence of twenty min- 
utes, as we got under way again, I saw a huge man, at least six feet 
four inches tall, and powerfully built in proportion, standing near 
the Captain. 

"This man," said the Captain to me, "is on board without my 
permission. See that he does not leave the bridge. When we get to 
the Pier, hand him over to the Marine Superintendent for neces- 
sary action." 

With that, the Captain turned his back on the stranger, and 
busied himself with details of berthing. 

"Who are you?" I asked the stranger. 

"I'm a reporter from the Globe, 9 ' he said, with a grin, "and, boy, 
have I got the greatest story in the world? I've scooped them all 
I've been interviewing the survivors and your crew. Oh, boy, what 
a story, WHAT A STORY! But now the Captain won't talkl 
And who are you, Mister? What's your story? Is it true that the 
Titanic'* officers shot the third-class women and children dead, so 
that millionaires could get into the boats? Is it true that you picked 
up people floating around on lumps of ice? Is it true that the band 
played 'Nearer, My God, to Thee'? Is it true that dogs were saved 
and children left to drown?" 

"Don't ask me," I said, ruffled. "I'll tell you nothing. How did 
you get on board?" 

"Never mind thatl I'm only doing my job, that's all. I got on 

328 



board. I made it. I was told to get the story, and I got it. You can 
do what you like with me." 

I sized him up. He was twice as big as me, and I wondered what 
would happen if he decided to leave the bridge to get more stories. 

"You heard the Captain's orders that you're to stay here until 
the ship berths?" I said. 

"Sure, I heard them, and sure I'll stay here! Globe Reporter on 
Bridge as Carpathia Berths!" he chuckled. "How's that for a scoop? 
Sure, I'll stay put. Gee, what a story, WHAT A STORY!" 

It was 9.30 P.M. when we berthed at Pier 54, at the foot of West 
Fourteenth Street. Rain was still drizzling, but a crowd of 30,000 
people had gathered to see the survivors of the Titanic disembark. 
The crowd was orderly, controlled by mounted police and foot 
police in glistening raincoats. 

As the gangways were being lowered, I noticed that the Cunard 
Marine Superintendent, Captain Roberts, was waiting on the 
wharf, to be the first on board. "Will you come with me?" I said, 
firmly, to the big reporter of the Globe. "It's my duty to hand you 
over to the Marine Superintendent of the Cunard Line, to be dealt 
with for boarding this ship without the Captain's permission/' 

"Sure, 111 come with youl Lead on, I'll give no trouble," the 
big fellow chuckled. 

I led him to the head of the gangway, and said to Captain 
Roberts, "Captain Rostron wants this reporter dealt with for 
getting on board without permission." 

Before the words were out of my mouth, the Globe reporter had 
charged down the gangway like a bull moose and had disappeared 
into the crowd. 

"Let him go," said Captain Roberts. "We've plenty of other 
worries on our minds. Good riddance to him!" 

The surviving passengers of the Titanic began going ashore im- 
mediately, many of them wearing clothes given to them by the 
Carpathian passengers and crew. Hundreds of flashlight photo- 
graphs were being taken. Customs formalities were waived, and 
soon the survivors were being welcomed with tears of joy by rela- 
tives and Mends, or taken care of by kindly persons and charitable 

329 



organizations. Many of them were interviewed by reporters at the 
exit from the customs shed. 

The Carpathian passengers and crew, and the survivors of the 
Titanic^ crew, with some few exceptions, remained on board 
overnight. It was desirable that the Carpathian voyage to the 
Mediterranean should be resumed as quickly as possible, after 
port formalities were completed. The White Star company wished 
to keep the Titanic's surviving crew members under their super- 
vision, pending the official inquiry, and to find new employment 
for them, or to pay them off. 

But swarms of reporters and photographers now came on board, 
and remained until after midnight, getting stories from the sur- 
vivors and from our passengers and crew. 

Many of these stories, obtained from irresponsible or shocked 
persons, were highly colored by imagination. Next day, and for 
several days, the "Yellow Press" published these stories with 
"sensational" headlines. There seemed no limit to the absurdities 
which could be printed. "The Captain was drunk ... He com- 
mitted suicide . . . First Officer Murdock shot himself as the ship 
went down . . . Third-class passengers were locked below deck 
and left to drown like rats. . . ." 

But the responsible editors of serious newspapers showed sound 
judgment and insight in sifting the facts from the mass of rumors 
and fables. They handled one of the greatest news-stories ever 
known (until that time) with dignity and eloquence. New York 
was in mourning. Flags flew at half mast throughout the city. 
Memorial services were held in churches of all denominations. The 
obituary notices of the famous people who had perished occupied 
many columns of type. Leader-writers rose to great heights, analyz- 
ing the causes of the disaster and calling for preventive measures 
to make any further happening of this kind impossible. 

Resolutions of sorrow were passed by innumerable organiza- 
tions. Newspapers opened subscription funds for the relief of dis- 
tressed survivors. The generous, emotional heart of America was 
touched, as seldom before or since. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle aptly 
summed up: "The heart of the nation throbs with grief for the 
bereft." 

330 



Britain, too, was in mourning. Flags flew at half mast in London, 
Southampton, Liverpool, and many other cities, and memorial 
services were held. There were tragic scenes at Southampton, 
where most of the widows, orphans, relatives, and friends of the 
Titanic* s crew lived. 

To put a stop to the fantastic rumors that were flying around, 
the United States Senate appointed an Investigation Committee 
to take evidence on oath without delay. This inquiry opened at the 
Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York on Friday morning, April 19 
(the day after the Carpathia berthed). 

The first witness examined was Bruce Ismay, who was in an in- 
vidious position, as already he had been bitterly attacked in the 
Yellow Press for having saved himself when so many others had 
perished. He was still suffering from shock, but told the Committee 
that when he stepped into a boat that was being lowered, only 
partly filled, there were no women, and in fact no passengers, on 
the deck nearby. He added that, in his opinion, the Titanic would 
not have sunk if she had struck the ice head on. He gave evidence 
of the ship's lifeboat capacity and other details. 

Captain Rostron was the next witness examined. He was called 
at this early stage because the Carpathia was being got ready to 
clear out again from New York to resume her voyage. His evidence 
was seamanlike and forthright, as was only to be expected from 
him, and did much to refute senseless rumors. 

Then the four surviving officers of the Titanic were examined. 
Their evidence gave a dear picture of the facts. One of the Senators 
on the Committee, who was from an inland State, asked Fourth 
Officer Boxhall, "What is an iceberg made of?" 

After a moment's consideration, Boxhall answered, with perfect 
seriousness and truth, "Ice!" 

Next day, Saturday, April 20, the Carpathia was cleared again 
out of New York, to resume her voyage, ten days behind schedule. 
The Cunard Company refused to accept any compensation from 
the White Star Line for this loss of schedule time and the ex- 
penses of the rescue. 

331 



At each port of call on our run to the Mediterranean and Adri- 
atic, Captain Rostron was feted and hailed as the hero of the 
Titanic. The facts had by that time become known authentically, 
and it was recognized that his fine seamanship had been responsi- 
ble for saving many lives. 

A vigorous controversy raged for many months on the causes of 
the disaster. Literary big guns entered the fray when George Ber- 
nard Shaw and Arthur Conan Doyle had an acrimonious dispute, 
in which both showed their command of words and their ignorance 
of seamanship. 

When we returned to New York, early in June, after a voyage of 
seven weeks, with a full ship of immigrants, there were a dozen 
bags of mail, including thousands of letters, and hundreds of par- 
cels, waiting for Captain Rostron, personally addressed to him. 

The Captain gave me the task of opening these letters, and sort- 
ing out those for immediate notice from those that could wait. 
This task took me several days. Many of the letters were of heart- 
felt thanks from actual survivors or relatives and friends of sur- 
vivors; others were from newspaper readers throughout America 
and Britain, who had felt moved to write to express their admira- 
tion of a hero; some were from cranks; some from autograph 
hunters; and some were hard-luck tales from professional writers 
of begging letters who pester all celebrities; and some were offers 
of marriage (too late, the Captain was already married). 

The parcels contained gifts of books, bibles, jewelry, cigarette 
cases, pens, photographs, teapots, binoculars, and all kinds of 
things which the Captain already had, or did not need: but all the 
letters and gifts had to be answered in common courtesy a task 
which occupied the Captain's spare time (when he had any) for 
many weeks thereafter. 

Then followed a round of public functions, at which Captain 
Rostron was presented with testimonials and illuminated ad- 
dresses, and with checks for substantial sums in dollars from funds 
raised by newspapers. 

An artist was commissioned to make a plaque of his head, which 
was placed in the "Hall of Fame" in the New York City Hall an 
honor, I believe, not previously accorded to any Britisher. Fi- 

332 



nally, he was summoned to Washington to receive from the hands 
of President Taft the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest 
honor that the United States Government could bestow. He de- 
served all the rewards and honors that were showered upon him. 
As a shipmaster has to take the blame when things go wrong, it 
is also fair that he should be given the credit when there is credit 
to be given. 

The officers and crew of the Carpathia were not forgotten. A 
testimonial fund was distributed in the form of a bonus of two 
months' extra pay, together with medals (gold for the officers and 
silver for the crew). I still have my gold medal. On one side it 
shows the Carpathia surrounded by bergs, with five lifeboats mak- 
ing for the ship. Above is King Neptune, with his beard flowing 
down on either side, and below dolphins and an anchor* 

On the other side, the inscription on the medal is: 

PRESENTED TO THE CAPTAIN, OFFICERS 8c CREW 
OF R.M.S. CARPATHIA, IN RECOGNITION OF GAL- 
LANT & HEROIC SERVICES, FROM THE SURVIVORS 
OF THE S.S. TITANIC, APRIL 15TH, 1912. 

There were approximately 300 of the medals struck, of which 
fourteen were gold, and I sometimes wonder how many of those 
medals, and their recipients, are now extant, and where? 

After this excitement, I made four more voyages in the Car- 
pathia on the Adriatic service, and was paid off from her at Liver- 
pool on January 1, 1913. 

I was then called up for twelve months' training in warships, 
to qualify as a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve. I was in 
my thirtieth year. May and I were married in London on June 28, 
1913, while I was on leave from naval training. 

When I was paid off from the Carpathia, with the rank of Sec- 
ond Officer in die Cunard service, I had been at sea for fourteen 
y ears approximately six years in sail and eight in steamers. I 
have told of my experiences of those early years in sail and steam 
in detail not because they were unusual, but because my training 

333 



as a seaman was similar to that of other young officers of that 
generation, at the beginning of the modern age. 

With the outbreak of war in 1914, the old days and old ways, 
at sea as on land, came to an end. In a sequel volume to this, en- 
titled Commodore's Farewell, my story will tell of bigger ships, 
bigger events, and bigger responsibilities that came my way; but, 
across the years, I look back on my service in sail, and in the little 
old tramps and ladies of the Western Ocean, with only one regret: 
that those bygone days cannot be relived . . . except in memory. 
The real adventure of seafaring is not in wrecks or other disasters, 
which are rare. It is rather in the routines of working the ship 
safely, in wide and narrow waters, until she is berthed, and her 
moorings are made fast, and the telegraph points to FINISHED 
WITH ENGINES, and a voyage has ended. 



334